Gun Woman (2014)
Directed by Kurando Mitsutake
It's 2014. Almost halfway through the 10's, teens, whatever we choose to call them. We've seen the 60's come back into vogue, and the 70's. What's up these days? The 80's!
Having lived through them, I have mixed memories, but one thing I loved was low budget movies made during the video boom. One logo could get my excitement up like no other: CANNON FILMS. You saw that at the front of a trailer, you were all but guaranteed tons of action, blood, and boobs. The first R-rated movie I saw in theaters was a Cannon film (Delta Force) and probably 9 out of 10 of those that followed came from the house of Norris, Van Damme, Stallone, and Bronson.
One thing that Cannon never got into was Asian films. What would have happened if legendary transgressive Japanese director Takashi Miike had worked for Cannon during this time period?
Receiving its North American premiere at Texas Frightmare 2014, this was a big surprise for me. Given star Asami's mainstream film career, I expected another entry in the splatter-happy grue-soaked Japanese delirium perfected by people like Nishimura and Iguchi. Instead, what I got was a hardcore revenge picture with a major 80's Cannon vibe.
After a successful Los Angeles hit, a nameless assassin (Matthew Floyd Miller) and his driver head for their extraction point in Vegas. On the way, to kill the time, they trade stories of hits in the past. The driver asks the hitman about the 'Hamazaki thing'. Reluctant, but wanting to pass the time, the hitman tells the story that makes up the body of the film.
A talented doctor ran afoul of a very bad man, son of a powerful Japanese businessman/gangster. He's so bad that he's been exiled from Japan to LA so he doesn't embarrass his father. This monster, known only as Hamazaki's Son (Noriaki Kamata) has a grudge against the doctor, so he does bad things to the doctor and his wife. The wife is dead, the doctor is crippled, and a vendetta begins that will lead to the creation of the deadliest assassin in history: the Gun Woman.
Asami plays the titular character, and while she's known for her adult films and co-starring roles in such films as Helldriver and Dead Sushi, this is something we haven't seen from her before. This is Asami's film, and she turns in a performance that should alert the world to a brand new talent.
As Gun Woman, Asami plays a role that no western actress would attempt. She has one line in the entire film, relying on her acting skills to impart all of the emotions and changes her character undergoes. She spends pretty much the entire last half of the film completely naked, covered in blood, all while engaging in high impact fight scenes with no stunt double. At one point, she actually chops her own hair off with a combat knife. (Director Mitsutake told the crowd at Frightmare that she insisted, it was the only way for it to look right.)
It's a bravado performance as we see her go from a street junkie to a killing machine who has to assassinate several people with limited bullets and grievous wounds. This is seriously something to watch on it's own, she should really surprise the world with this level of acting skill.
As the description of Asami's role suggests, this film is not for the faint of heart. The villain is a monster of the worst sort, and between his actions and what Gun Woman is forced to do to gain her freedom, this is a movie chock full of blood and naked flesh. This is not the splatter-gore Japanese stuff we've come to expect, this is relatively realistic ultraviolence.
The best news is that this is a fun, fun movie. While played almost completely seriously, you take Gun Woman's quest to heart and cheer her on. There were plenty of cheers and applause before the film was out at the Frightmare screening. The trend today is to mimic 'retro' movies by making a movie appear as if it was shot in the past. Mitsutake doesn't go this route, and thank heavens for that.
This is a movie in the spirit of the 80's, not slavishly trying to recreate the 80's. That lost period of violent action/revenge films, shot on a shoestring budget, chock full of blood and violence...that's what Gun Woman captures, and it captures it perfectly.
A big part of this is the amazing score by Dean Harada. All synths and metal guitars, it's a tribute to those films and sets the mood perfectly.
While some of the dialogue between the driver and the hitman is stilted, and the resolution is predictable, this movie entertained the living crap out of me. You have the amazing performance by Asami balanced out by the over-the-top violence and taut, suspenseful story. By the time it's over, you're in love with Gun Woman and begging for more.
As Asami said during the Q&A following the film, as soon as someone in the audience said, 'So...Gun Woman 2?'
4 1/2 out of 5