Monday, March 23, 2009

Tokyo is Burning...should you care?

From the team that brought you the over-the-top splatter/comedy/martial arts/revenge flick, The Machine Girl, comes Tokyo Gore Police. For those who have seen The Machine Girl, it goes without saying that Director Yoshihiro Nishimura ( who provided the gooey goodness for Machine Girl ) has quite a tough act to follow. In fact, it may be Nishimura's desire to outdo the insanity of the previous outing that leads to Tokyo Gore Police being decidedly less satisfying.

Tokyo Gore Police stars Eihi Shiina ( known to most as the piano wire wielding psycho from Miike's "Audition" ) as Ruka, a ruthlessly efficient Police Officer tasked with hunting down and eliminating a breed of vicious super-mutant criminals known as Engineers. Besides being extraordinarily depraved, the Engineers are also extremely difficult to kill: each open wound regenerates itself as a bio-mechanical weapon. This leads to some inventive ( and revolting ) setpieces involving partially dismembered Engineers sprouting chainsaw limbs, penis cannons, and drooling crocodile vaginas. The effects are impressive for the most part and, thankfully, lean more heavily toward practical elements as opposed to CGI. The action is the sort of hyper-kinetic, gerbil-on-meth style that can be expected of this kind of Asian splatterfest and the level of gore and sadism on display rivals Hershell Gordon Lewis at his most excessive.

So, where does Tokyo Gore Police go wrong? One would think that the combination of unapologetic, grotesque elements offered here would lead to a non-stop, blood-drenched good time. One would be only partially correct. The problem lies with the fact that Tokyo Gore Police aspires to be too much and as a result, fails to acquire any real consistency of issue only exacerbated by its longer-than-average running time. In between bouts of flashy dismemberment and imaginative mutants, Nishimura attempts to place the story within a dystopic, nihilistic social context. In Nishimura's Tokyo, the Police have become a privatized, for profit enterprise and society has come to reflect humanity at its self-absorbed, narcissistic, jaded worst. The Engineers can be said to only be a symptom of a greater problem, as Televisions cheerfully advertise products such as the "Wrist Cutter" and "Remote Control Terminate." The Police seem to treat their duties as a glorified gladiator sport rather than public service.

There is certainly nothing inherently wrong with attempting to frame mayhem within a greater, satirical context. Where Tokyo Gore Police turns a potential asset into an Achiles Heel is that it can't seem to decide whether it wants to go for a darkly humorous tone or simply drop all pretense and let the audience have it full-on in the face with a firehose of gore. Nishimura attempts to do both, and instead of an engaging, intriguing experience like Suicide Club, we are left with a loosely connected series of set-pieces unsuccessfully straddling the divide between clever and stupid.

No comments:

Post a Comment