by Jason Suzuki
Asami is an actress who always seems to give her all in whatever role she is in. I, and what I assume like most people, were introduced to Asami through films like The Machine Girl (2008) where, despite not playing the titular character, was one of the most memorable aspects of the film. Even when she is just one of the many zombies in Noboru Iguchi’s representation of his inner thoughts Zombie Ass (2012), Asami brings so much enthusiasm to a part, that she does much more than lend credibility to a film’s bizarre world, she is a factor to a film’s level of fun. With Gun Woman, Kurando Mitsutake’s third feature but second to be released in the states, Asami is given a lead role and does not let it go to waste. Sporting a score that suggests a VHS release for the film instead of the Blu-ray from Scream Factory, the film is an old-school revenge story that is ready to shut down any nitpickers in the audience when it comes to any questions they might have regarding the premise.
The film opens on a woman showering, it’s not long before a gun enters the frame and puts two in the back of her head. The killer (Matthew Floyd Miller) gets into his getaway car with hired driver (Dean Simone). After some awkward ice breaking the driver convinces the killer to talk about the story of The Mastermind on the way to their evacuation point. The Mastermind (Kairi Narita) was a doctor whose wife was raped, killed, and the raped again by an individual known as Hamazaki’s son (Noriaki Kamata in what should be a career defining performance, or at least an exemplary performance for those cast as a perverse psycho). To get revenge the Mastermind buys a junkie (Asami) and trains her to become a killer. Hamazki’s son’s weak spot is his time spent in The Room, a place where he can freely practice necrophilia and cannibalism. The Mastermind will perform surgery on the Gun Woman, inserting the parts of a handgun into her body. He will sedate her so that she seems deceased. When she comes to she will be in The Room, open up her stitches, put the gun together, and get The Mastermind his revenge.
Sound insane? Well it does to the Driver as well, who acts as the nitpicker in the film, giving it a self-aware quality. Every hole the Driver finds in the Mastermind’s plan, the Killer gives the reasoning behind it. Why does she need to have gun pieces sewn into her? Why can’t she wake up in The Room and take out a guard and steal that gun? Well because their guns have fingerprint matching technology so she wouldn’t be able to use them. Yes, this film has been given a lot of thought, the performances are as realistic as possible, especially during the execution of the plan. This is not just a film that has ridiculous ideas and will do them no matter what, the films wants to make sense, which for some will lessen its fun factor but for others will make it more than some of the post-Machine Girl-fare that has come out of Japan in the past few years. On top of that there is a fight scene between a fully nude Asami and wrestler Derick Neikirk that could stand up to the sauna fight in Eastern Promises.
The supplements for the film include a behind the scenes featurette that runs about fifty minutes and two commentaries: a solo one from Mitsutake in English, and one in Japanese where he is accompanied by his lead actress. You get good info on both but I do wish he would have gone more into how he knew Tatsuya Nakadai and got him to do a cameo in the film. The other feature is a fifty minute behind the scenes that covers a variety of topics from the more usual stuff like the director, the cast, and the effects work but there’s also a section about the use of firearms in the film. Being from Japan and shooting in LA, this was the first time the Japanese actors dealt with real firearms. Regardless of how you feel about guns, this segment is fascinating to see their thoughts on this cultural difference. But above all, you see what kind of a director Mitsutake is and his ability to see the talent in individuals who haven’t been given feature length challenges before.
Scream Factory’s release of Gun Woman is done with enough care (the sleeve is reversible, and a much better cover) bodes well for their other planned Japanese release of Takashi Miike’s Over Your Dead Body (review here). If you’re in the mood for a graphic revenge picture with a creative energy usually found in films of its budget bracket, then consider this Asami vehicle. But when you watch the supplements which contextualize the film as one very special for all involved, who see it much more than just entertaining craziness, you might do so as well.
Jason Suzuki is co-editor to Cinema Adrift.