Gun Woman bowed at the 2014 Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival, but it had its U.S. premiere a few months later at Texas Frightmare Weekend. I was fortunate to be there. I saw Asami (the star of the movie) and writer-director Kurando Mitsutake wandering around the vendors’ area. The actress, famous for her “naked performances,” was fully clothed – natch!
I also caught the film that evening, but I didn’t fully appreciate it until I rewatched it on Netflix this past weekend. In the meantime, I developed an appreciation of the aesthetics of contemporary Japanese crime thriller and horror movies. From an American point-of-view, these films can seem cheesy, gratuitous, and over-the-top, especially to newcomers. They’re an acquired taste, but one that pays off in spades in the end — as it did for Quentin Tarantino.
Gun Woman has a story-within-a-story structure. After carrying out a hit, the Assassin (Matthew Floyd Miller) heads for his “extraction point” with the aid of his getaway driver (Dean Simone). The Driver coaxes the taciturn Assassin to tell the story of the Hamazaki affair.
A brilliant doctor known only as the Mastermind (Kairi Narita) embarks on a quest for revenge against wealthy industrialist Hamazaki’s twisted son (Noriaki Kamata). Hamazaki’s son raped and killed Mastermind’s wife in front of him. To carry out his vengeance, Mastermind buys a young female meth whore, Mayumi (Asami), on the black market and trains her to be the ultimate assassin. Then he implants gun parts in her body that she must later assemble and use to kill Hamazaki’s son before she bleeds to death.
The two storylines converge at the end in a satisfying way. The sequences involving Mayumi’s transformation into Gun Woman, which take up most of the film, are both violent and erotic. The scenes in which Hamazaki’s son appears are probably the most enjoyable. Kamata plays the character in such an over-the-top way that he’s both brutally disgusting and comically amusing at the same time. That’s a difficult achievement, as Hamazaki’s son graduates from rape and murder to necrophilia and cannibalism.
Unlike other ultra-violent and transgressive Japanese films, this one does not venture beyond the shock value of its content into something deeper. It does not connect the viewer’s reality to its fantasy world to create a gut feeling of horror in the way that, for example, Sion Sono’s Suicide Club (2001) does. Neither does it have an underlying theme, such as the gangster morality of Takeshi Kitano’s Sonatine (1993).
Also, there’s a continuity error (see if you can spot it) that mars the otherwise well-done sequence in which Gun Woman completes her mission. Overall, though, Gun Woman is an entertaining exploitation/action thriller that’s well worth a watch. And, yes, it’s designed to set up a sequel. Bring it on, Asami and Kurando!*
*Kurando Mitsutake has just completed Karate Kill, which stars Asami but does not appear to be a Gun Woman sequel.