Sushi Girl (2012)
Directed by Kern Saxton
The world premiere of Sushi Girl at this year’s 2012 Fantasia Film Festival was met with cheers and applause moments before the film was screened due to its killer cast, equally intriguing plot and obvious Tarantino-esque overtones.
Viewers are introduced to the Sushi Girl herself (played by promising newcomer Cortney Palm) in the first few frames of the film as she is forced by her employer/captor, Duke (Tony Todd), to lay naked, covered in sushi, and refrain from emoting during a party she knows will NOT end up well.
After the stylistic and applause-worthy opening sequence, the story starts to unfold as we’re introduced to Fish (Noah Hathaway), a former professional thief who has just finished serving his six-year sentence for armed robbery. While leaving the prison, he is surprised to be picked up and told that his former boss, Duke, has arranged for him to be driven to a reunion party—to show his gratitude for Fish taking the heat for the botched heist six years before.
However, once Fish arrives at the “party,” he soon realizes that Duke and his eclectic former crew of henchmen (played by Mark Hamill, Andy Mackenzie and James Duval) do not want to celebrate Fish’s return, but rather they want information, and they’re willing to torture Fish in horrendous ways every three minutes for it. Needless to say, it gets very violent early on in this darkly comic thriller.
First-time director Kern Saxton takes on the challenge of shooting in one location, and because of the exceptional casting decisions, it definitely ramps up the tension to an extremely intense level. Although a newbie to the film world, Saxton understands that when locations are so controlled, madness, paranoia, betrayal and interesting plot twists follow—which is definitely one of the film’s greatest strengths.
It’s difficult not to compare this film to Reservoir Dogs since it’s abundantly clear Sushi Girl is unquestionably a loving and updated ode to the cult classic and has enough bloodshed in the film to make even Tarantino blush. (Trust me; if you thought the ear-slicing part in Reservoir Dogs was bad, just wait until you see what actor Andy Mackenzie does with a sock and an empty bottle in Sushi Girl.) The film also will remind you of the little known "Tales From The Crypt" episode “Food For Thought,” which proves that Saxton is definitely an aficionado for pop culture.
Although this film may be accused for just re-hashing plots and set pieces in older films, what truly sets it apart from the rest of the dime a dozen ensemble casted thrillers is that it’s full of brilliant performances. Tony Todd brings a dominating presence to the screen and has an exceptional monologue that also gives off a certain vulnerability to the role, which was most appreciated. James Duval plays the “bad guy with a conscience” in a very intriguing way because his character’s inner demons make it truly difficult to empathize with him, even though you want to. Albeit the scene-stealer of the film is Mark Hamill, who is as menacing as he is hilarious in a role that is already being compared to Heath Ledger’s version of “The Joker.” (Something not foreign to Hamill, considering he voiced “The Joker” in the Batman animated series.)
In short, Sushi Girl may not be everyone’s cup of sake; however, it’s a fanboy’s wet dream, full of inspired cameos, performances and benevolent tributes to Quentin Tarantino at his best.
4 out of 5