Zero WomanTokuma NishiokaMisayo HarukiNaoko Iijima
Zero Woman (1995)
Medium: film
Year: 1995
Director: Koji Enokido
Writer: Tooru Shinohara
Keywords: boobs
Series: << Zero Woman >>
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Actor: Misayo Haruki, Kosuke Hishinuma, Naoko Iijima, Takako Kitagawa, Miho Suzuki, Tokuma Nishioka, Akira Hamada
Format: 75 minutes
Website category: J-sleaze
Review date: 30 January 2013
A waste of time. Nothing here suggests any connection with its shocking 1974 predecessor, Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs, except the fact that they're both based on Tooru Shinohara's manga.
To set the scene, Zero Woman was a Tooru Shinohara manga that became a disturbing 1974 film and then later, independently, a series of straight-to-video movies. Seven came out in 1995-1999, then another two in 2004 and 2007.
This is the first film in that 1990s series and it's not very good at all. It's not trying to maintain continuity with the 1974 film, but I shouldn't hold that against it since it's an unrelated adaptation of the same source material. There's a new actress (Naoko Iijima) in the lead role, but that's normal and we'll be seeing someone new in every film. This is merely the latest Zero Woman in a line of them. She's had her past erased, she goes by the name of Rei (which means "zero") and she works for the assassination division of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police. In 1974, "Zero Department" was a flippant throwaway comment, but this film takes it literally.
You might be wondering why the Tokyo police force needs a full-time assassination division, even one with only two personnel: Iijima and her boss (Tokuma Nishioka). The film doesn't answer this.
The plot is weak, illogical and occasionally missing connective tissue. (The scenes it skips are sometimes more interesting than the ones it shows.) Iijima kills a couple of people, but it means nothing. Meanwhile Miho Suzuki is giving money to random men, having sex with them and telling them to "punish" her. This involves occasional nudity and bondage, which we're supposed to think is a substitute for a plot. Nothing happens for a while. Eventually though, Suzuki kills her latest man for calling her a pervert and refusing to have sex with her. Iijima and a policeman friend of hers (Kosuke Hishinuma) happen to be nearby, so now things start getting heavy. You see, Suzuki has a powerful father (Akira Hamada).
This is thematically consistent with the 1974 film, in that both involve politicians arranging the murder of anyone who's a threat to their daughters. However this take on it is sillier, since Hamada is trying to protect his public image while helping his daughter as she pays strangers to have kinky sex with her in public and then kill them. That's not the best long-term strategy.
His tactics make even less sense. Iijima at first doesn't want to investigate the case and refuses to pursue it, while Hishinuma's the one who can't leave it alone. Hamada thus twice sends assassins to kill Iijima before eventually turning his attention to Hishinuma. Later on though, once Iijima's actively investigating, Hamada's men repeatedly let her live and decide it would be more fun to start tormenting her instead. One of them's a dwarf with a sex dungeon. (Why?) He dies so ridiculously that it's amazing to think he survived into adulthood without accidentally sticking a fork in his eye. The other killer is a badass dude in a leather coat and he gets a better death, being merely very stupid.
There are a few points of mild interest. There's some meat in the Iijima-Nishioka relationship, which is almost chillingly impersonal and hardly exists except in the sense that he's her superior officer. He calls her his "dog". I like the homoerotic subtext in the hit man's killing of Hishinuma, which is heavy enough to look deliberate but subtle enough to be only tantalising subtext. That was far more attention-grabbing than if he'd been openly and explicitly gay.
I also like the gag of having Hamada stroking a white cat. It's only one scene, but it still screams Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
The cast is unremarkable, although I wasn't helped in looking them up by the fact that imdb can get unreliable if you're looking up titles this obscure. Suzuki's Japanese wikipedia page calls her a model, not an actress. Iijima is okay, but she's not setting the screen alight. The best actor here is Nishioka as her chilly boss, although I was charmed by the cute eager girl who's playing Hishinuma's girlfriend, even if she can't play grief convincingly.
You'll see this film referred to by various titles, because it has no good one. My first thought was to give a clumsy but literal translation of the Japanese title, i.e. Zero Woman: Metropolitan Police Department Section Zero Woman, but all that text after the colon seems to be a strapline for all of them. You'll also see it as "Zero Woman: Final Mission" (eh?) and just plain "Zero Woman", which is what this is if you ignore the subtitle. It's also tempting to call it "Zero Woman 1", which would fit the numbering of the later films in this straight-to-video series, although it seems a shame to imply that the dizzyingly superior 1974 original doesn't count.
There's very little here to reward an audience. Occasionally they'll throw in some oddness, like the Auton dream sequence or the "drawing a face on the mirror" scene. Oddest by miles of course is the singing sex torture dwarf, but unfortunately he's also too silly to be taken seriously. Your engagement with this movie will mostly be limited to picking at the plot holes. What's the point of the dwarf? Why didn't they kill her? Why are the baddies so stupid and illogical? (Answer: plot convenience.) Even the nudity's not that great. It's superficially competent filmmaking in most respects and it would be possible to get far worse, but that's hardly a recommendation.