Gun Woman [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Shout! Factory
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (7th June 2015).
The Film

Japanese cinema has a long history of directors who make films that operate outside convention, and in the past couple of decades those films have managed to get weirder and weirder. Directors like Takashi Miike and Noboru Iguchi are known for pushing their films past the point of insanity, producing the sort of wildly imaginative schlock that is equivalent to a foreign Troma movie. I’m hesitant to say there is any number of imitators operating in their wake because, frankly, it doesn’t seem like the Japanese film community has ever needed prodding or success to veer off into odd territories. Still, there are those who do weird right, and there are those who try to do weird right. At present, it seems like director Kurando Mitsutake falls into the latter camp, although his ambition and creativity seems to know no bounds. His latest romp through absurdity is “Gun Woman” (2014), a production that is equal parts Japanese and American, the latter showing influence because it was shot in the greater Los Angeles area. It’s not great – and it can be easily argued it isn’t even good – but Mitsutake imbues just enough taboo subject matter and visceral imagery to make it slightly memorable, if nothing else.

The film opens with two hit men discussing the legend of a Japanese doctor who sought revenge on a crime boss Hamazaki’s son because he murdered the doctor’s wife. The son was exiled, sent to America, where he continues to indulge his depravity through violent sex, drugs, beatings and necrophilia. The man has many unusual vices. Despite his extreme ways, the son is still kept in a safe house and guarded 24/7 by bodyguards. Mastermind (Kairi Narita), the doctor whose wife was killed, has hatched a plan to carry out his vengeance – he kidnaps drugged-out women and subjects them to a series of demanding physical challenges and training. If they fail, they die. If they pass (which none so far have), then they will be sent to carry out this mission.

Mastermind has Mayumi (Asami), a meth addict, sent to his warehouse. Once she has detoxed, the doctor and his sparse crew train her relentlessly, building her up to become the ultimate lethal assassin, capable of killing the crime boss’ son and his entire crew. The only thing is nobody can get near him… unless you happen to be an attractive female corpse. The son likes to nail dead chicks and eat their flesh while in the act. Mastermind concludes the only way to get his revenge is by putting Mayumi under sedation so that she appears dead. But what about weapons? Maybe ol’ Mastermind has watched “Videodrome” (1983) one too many times, because his brilliant idea is to cut open Mayumi, avoid her major organs, and stash the parts of the gun inside of her. Once she is admitted to ‘The Room’ (a.k.a. the place where guys have sex with corpses), she’ll have to pull open her sutures, retrieve the gun parts, assemble it, and then carry out her hit within 22 minutes or else she will die from loss of blood. No pressure or anything…

Asami shoulders the onus of this film and handily carries it to the conclusion. A less capable actress would have left this as nothing more than an outrageous pile of steaming feces, but Asami has depth and vulnerability and she kicks all kinds of ass – covered in blood and wearing her birthday suit – with ease. Mayumi goes from being strung-out on drugs to building herself back up via a “Rocky” (1976)-esque training montage before finally being sent off on her quest. The entire time, this actress is being run through the gauntlet. She’s pushed physically, mentally, spiritually – and she has to do all of it in the buff. I can’t think of many films that require the lead actress to be naked for 80% of the runtime.

This is a low-budget production and it really shows. There are, like, two major locations total that are shown. The highly protected compound which houses Hamazaki’s son is shown via satellite images, but anything shot on the ground is basically confined to a single white room. This leaves the climax feeling much smaller, less grand, than the events preceding it suggested. “Gun Woman” seems to be building up to this major climactic battle between Mayumi and Hamazaki’s cronies, but the final fights are much more intimate and brutal. And, again, Asami does it all naked and covered in blood.

One thing the filmmakers could have done to improve the film: kill the wraparound. The films opens with two hitmen discussing Mastermind and his plans for Mayumi, cutting back to them every so often and finally wrapping up the film by presenting a twist involving the two of them (which anyone could have seen coming because why else are they being featured?). The acting is terrible, the dialogue clunky and the denouement unnecessary. The film would have been a bit tighter if all of it were cut. It exists solely to provide exposition and nothing more.

“Gun Woman” may prove satisfactory for fans of bloody, extreme, and distasteful cinema. Most, however, will find it to be a marginally cool concept that is lacking in execution. Personally, I think it’s too bad they didn’t shoot it in Japan. I’d rather see a low-budget movie set in a foreign locale than watch people driving over the same bridge in Los Angeles every cheap picture scouts for locations. There are some intense, nasty moments during the final fights, but that definitely isn’t enough to salvage the other 80-some-odd minutes of drag.

Video

“Gun Woman” was shot digitally, but it isn’t the crisp, clean digital image you’d expect. The film’s 1.78:1 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4 encoded picture looks too hot, with blown out whites and blooming seen quite a bit. The image isn’t very defined either, looking much softer than it should. Blacks are just a little hazy, otherwise solid. Scenes shot out in the sunlight look the sharpest. Overall, it’s a mediocre HD image that never impresses.

Audio

Audio comes in the form of a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound track (48kHz/24-bit) that uses Japanese and English languages in almost equal parts. Like the video, this is a serviceable track with very little dynamics to elevate the action scenes. The best thing about it is composer Dean Harada’s Jan Hammer-esque synth cues and extensive use of electric guitar. It’s a bitching soundtrack, only it feels like it was done “cold”, meaning not scene specific and tailored to the film. Some tracks feel out of place given the context of the scene in which they’re heard. Subtitles are available in English for Japanese dialogue and English (all dialogue).

Extras

The disc comes with two audio commentary tracks, a making-of featurette plus some theatrical trailers.

The first audio commentary features director Kurando Mitsutake and actress Asami (Japanese with English subtitles). The two discuss the differences between working in Japan versus America. Asami gets into discussing her regiment, fight scenes, nudity, etc. while Mitsutake offers up cursory technical details.

On the second audio commentary track, Kurando Mitsutake goes solo – and speaks in English – offering up further details on the shoot and really getting into the nuts & bolts of it all.

“Making of “Gun Woman”” (1080i) is a featurette that runs for 47 minutes and 46 seconds. This long piece covers the entire making of the film, showing off behind-the-scenes of shooting, the fight choreography, gun training and other aspects of production.

Finally, three theatrical trailers (1080p) are included, running for 3 minutes and 43 seconds.

Packaging

The single disc comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keep case. The cover art is reversible, with the “B” side being much cooler.

Overall

As much as I wanted to appreciate the sheer insanity of Mitsutake’s film, it just didn’t gel with me at all. The training goes on forever, building up to this big mission, and then it all seems to go much more quickly than expected. Asami is a strong female presence on screen, but outside of her abilities the film has little else to offer.

The Film: D+ Video: B- Audio: B Extras: C+ Overall: C-

 


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