Oh dear. The best thing about it is the sex scenes.
It's the tenth and last Zero Woman film to date, although of course that's not to say that some git isn't planning to make more. The main thing I like about it is that the production team are being retro, harking back to franchise points that we hadn't seen in a while. Thus we have:
(a) The red coat! I'd forgotten the red coat.
(b) Handcuffs on a long chain.
(c) Corruption from those in power.
(d) Rei (Atsuko Miura) being a hollow shell as far as human emotions are concerned, even saying at one point, "I'm already dead." She feels she's seen so much death that there's nothing left inside her. She's empty.
(e) Lots of sleaze.
(f) Department Zero being a semi-mythical police department and Rei being technically a police officer who does a sort of police work, which attracts the attention of a disturbed cop (Masaki Miura). The two Miuras treat each other frostily, tail each other and end up having sex. We're shown the latter at some length, of course. I hope having a common surname doesn't mean the actors were brother and sister.
Mind you, not having (c), (d) and (e) in Zero Woman (2004)
had only been a one-film glitch. However of all those things, the only one that's going to mean anything to someone who hasn't been watching all the Zero Woman films is (e). Yup, the nudity. After the last film decided to go almost family-friendly, here they're going back to boobs.
In fairness, they do this well. I won't pretend that this is an artistic benchmark, but here at least you can't say they're not achieving what they set out to do. The sex is often kinky (lesbians in prison being watched by the warden, bondage, a priest) and personally I'd say this is the sexiest Zero Woman film yet. Nudity is often dull. Heigh-ho, more boobs. There's nothing intrinsically interesting about a sex scene and there are lots of films out there which fail to get any impact at all from their flesh-flashing. This is doubly unfortunate when it's porn. Here though, Ken'ichi Fujiwara knows how to shoot the relevant scenes for, um, maximum effect.
It's blatant exploitation, yes. That's the point. The first five seconds out-sleaze the last film on their own. It's also the only aspect of this movie that could be called good. It helps that there's no rape, although it's wrong that this should need saying.
Apart from that, there's nothing here to see. The storyline is uninvolving, badly acted and based on stupid semi-racist nationalism. It also has such a weak ending that my eyes almost popped out when the closing credits rolled. That's not a finale. That's not even a set-up for a finale. It's as if they ran out of film and went down the pub without bothering to shoot the real ending.
The racism is anti-American, rather than anti-Chinese or anti-immigrant. This will make it slightly more acceptable to some audiences, but it's still stupid. The terrorists and the cop agree. "Japan is ruled by foreign countries." It's nothing but the kow-towing yes-man of America and its other corrupt allies. "What happened to Japan's independence?" someone cries. They bemoan their "beautiful country" and tell stories of Americans doing evil things and then getting away with it scot-free. 1. "My father was killed by an American army card. The investigation was halted because the U.S. Army didn't want any bad publicity." 2. Fifteen years ago, an American plane crashed into a village, but the story was covered up to hide illegal exports from Japan to America.
Had this gone on any longer, we'd have probably seen President Obama hiding under a bridge and eating small children. It's knee-jerk anti-Americanism, not that much different from all those people who've decided that the U.S. government orchestrated the 9/11 World Trade Centre attacks. Admittedly, in Japan, it's not entirely without cause. The U.S./Japan Status of Forces Agreement says that American soldiers can't be prosecuted in Japanese courts, which causes problems in Okinawa when they kidnap and gang-rape twelve-year-olds. (Real example. It happened in 1995.) However that's hardly the same thing as wiping out villages and then covering it up. Besides, local immunity from prosecution is standard operating procedure for the U.S. Army and it was that being taken away that was the final trigger for them to abandon Iraq.
Anyway, the film loves talking out of its backside about America. U.S. soldiers beat up Masaki Miura for asking questions. However none of this is relevant to the storyline, since the film doesn't even have any English-speaking characters and its villains are instead home-grown Japanese terrorists. America and Americans have no plot involvement. They're just a favourite topic of conversation, from people who'd probably also like to see the hanging of homosexuals and something done about the scandal of women being allowed to vote.
There are two important women in this film, Atsuko Miura and Sasa Handa. Both get their tits out a lot and kill people. You'll probably get them confused, because of the film's bad storytelling, so I'll help you here by explaining that Sasa Handa's the pretty one with silicon implants who in the same year had an ongoing role in the Maria Ozawa Kekko Kamen
films. She's a bad actress, but she's less bad than Miura and she's had more of an acting career in between her hardcore porn films. She's also nice to look at. Her other films include Oppai Chambara (translation: Boobs Swordfighting).
Mind you, her first sex scene doesn't make sense. A man's hog-tied on a bed. Miura has sex with him, then kills him. Why not just kill him while he's tied up?
Atsuko Miura, on the other hand, is the worst Zero Woman yet. (There have been others I haven't liked much, but Miura trumps them all.) We've seen bad actresses doing nothing in the role of Rei, simply delivering their lines with no emotional reaction. Miura though can't even manage that. She can't even get as high as zero. She doesn't seem like a Zero Woman, but merely a hamster-faced non-actress saying dialogue while looking sullen. Other words you might use to describe her include "vapid", "dull" and "unintelligent". Miura's scant filmography also includes Sukeban Boy
and titles like Love Hotels and Dark Love: Rape, although she can be spotted in Sion Sono's Strange Circus
Influences might include the Bond films. Someone compares Rei to 007 and for the first time she has a female boss, reminding me slightly of Judi Dench's M. Ironically Dench's debut in GoldenEye had been in 1995, which was also when the 1990s Zero Woman films began.
Zero Woman hasn't gone out on a high, although I'd be surprised if it didn't come back one day. However the storyline is fairly standard for the series and it's mostly the bad acting and tedious politics that make it suck. It could have been good. The two women aren't together enough to have any kind of relationship, but they're still mirrors of each other and the story isn't without an emotional core. In a better-made film, I might even have liked it. Meanwhile I appreciate the fact that the film's aware of Zero Woman iconography, so for example I raised my eyebrows at the scene which implies that Rei isn't technically an assassin, but merely an investigator who's licenced to kill during her investigations.
Watch this if you're in a mood for porn. Under no other circumstances bother.
"Killing suspects isn't going to solve the case!"