Good grief, the internet's full of garbage about this movie. Its English-language title is "Death Row Girls" (ahahahahahaha) and here's its poster blurb:
DESCRIPTION THAT GETS COPY-PASTED EVERYWHERE: "In a nightmarish world of secret graveyards and machine gun executions, inmates must die... or kill to survive. Escape is no option, and is punished with... death, or a fate worse than death."
MORE ACCURATE DESCRIPTION FROM FINN: "In a respectful, well-run camp that looks far better than ordinary prison, sensible inmates will do fine. Rude, pig-headed idiots with attitude problems will deserve everything they get."
As a "women in prison" exploitation flick, it's quite unusual. It's an island training facility, not a prison. You're in a dormitory, not a cell. The doors don't even have locks. The guards are polite, respectful and as strict about their own internal discipline as they are with the inmates. (A guard is in a relationship with 1957 and they'd both be in trouble if they were discovered. Similarly, the communal baths are watched by female wardens, with no men allowed.) There are no genre staples like torture or lesbian sex. The guards' idea of group punishment is (gasp) spraying everyone with water. Even the violent girl with a hair-trigger temper gets off scot-free, with the head warden praising her potential as a human being and saying she deserves another chance if she'll try to fix her bad habits. I liked his approach. He talks a lot of sense, actually.
Admittedly it's possible to push your luck too far. Human life has less weight here. Even so, though, it's basically a military training camp for a bunch of girls who'd otherwise be facing life imprisonment or death row. We're told that inmates can earn their freedom, possibly in as little as a year. The weather looks nice. Obey your sergeant-major and you'll be fine, if also exhausted a lot of the time. The first-come-first-served canteen after a daily run seems harsh, but otherwise you'd think prisoners would be queuing up to get assigned here.
Naturally our heroine (1316, played by Aki Hoshino) is a screeching, foul-mouthed idiot who'd probably hurl abuse at herself if there wasn't anyone else around. She picks a fight with her combat instructor and gets flattened. When the warder puts a gun in front of her, she turns psycho gun nut without considering whether or not it's loaded. She can't be bothered to get out of bed for roll call. Even when she starts moderating her behaviour (because even her stupidity has a limit), she's surly and sullen. In short, I wanted her dead. She whines about wanting her freedom, but:
(a) the alternative was prison.
(b) the things she used to do with her freedom included "rob convenience stores for unimpressive amounts of money and then stab cops to death while trying to escape."
(c) she should be grateful to the island regime for raising her almost to the level of a human being. (After nearly an hour of an 84-minute film.)
Oh, and she's played by Aki Hoshino, a bikini idol who's also in, um, the 2004 live-action Kekko Kamen films. She's the headline star, but she's got a face like a slapped rodent and I've always thought she looks insipid. I'm mildly impressed that she managed to pull off this ultra-aggressive role.
There's a fair amount of nudity, albeit less than you'd expect from this genre. (One of the criteria for the island's inmates was clearly "mustn't be flat-chested".) The film takes itself seriously and never slips into camp or self-aware trash. I quite liked how the story unfolds, with 1316 and 1527 learning ever more worrying things about the island regime until we reach a finale of pleasantly surprising ambiguity. (1527 is determined to escape because she's a hungry underdog in this world and thinks no one will ever be allowed to leave alive. She may or may not be wrong.)
That said, though, personally I spent the whole film cheering for the baddies and wanting 1316 to get machine-gunned.