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T˘ky˘ Zankoku Keisatsu / Tokyo Gore Police belongs to Fever Dreams.
Thanks to all who helped with proofreading.
Disclaimer: There may be some small spoilers but no major plot points or twists will be spoiled. You have been warned! Also, finding pictures for this review was an interesting hunt, but most of these should be fine. None the less, reader's discretion is advised.
Note that this is actually a review written by Vaudevillain Veteran. She sent this to me prior to the contest a couple months ago. So assume this is indeed her work.
T˘ky˘ Zankoku Keisatsu / Tokyo Gore Police (2008)
Genre: Japanese Gore/ Action/ Horror/ Sci-Fi Rated: Run time: 110 Minutes. Subtitled and Dubbed available.
Tokyo Gore Police seems one of those films that you can only hear about online. One that you surprisingly find in a bargain bin in the foreign films section. If asked to describe the film to another person, you are not sure whether you should be describing the spectacle or the story. Well, you do not even know where to start with either subject. Where does one even start with a film entitled Tokyo Gore Police?
First premiering in several film festivals before being released in Japan, The film had its North American premiere at the New York Asian Film Festival on June 21, 2008 then premiering in Canada at the Fantasia Festival on July 12, 2008. Since then it has premiered at various film festivals internationally, getting a DVD release a year later and remaining somewhat of a cult classic among fans.
Time for this review to go, go, go!
For fans of Japanese Horror, this film has quite a pedigree to its name. Directed by Yoshihiro Nishimura, better known for his special effects and make up work in cult favourites Suicide Club (2001), it's sequel Noriko's Dinner Table (2005) and various other well received titles, now doing direction for what can only be described as Japanese Grindhouse films, full to the brim with blood, perversion and most things not socially acceptable to bring up in pleasant conversation. Shot and finished in two weeks, this would be Nishimura's first commercial film. A few known faces in Japanese cinema are scattered into the film, made even better by having Eihi Shiina as the leading lady, known for playing the sadistic main villain from Takashi Miike's well-known suspense film Audition (1999), taking on a more unserious role this time around, this being the debut of her appearing in Nishimura's films.
The film is set in a near future chaotic Japan (not dissimilar with a Paul Verhoeven-style dystopian vision of the future) where The Tokyo Police Force has been privatized to deal with the new threat of Engineers, people with key-shaped tumours inside their bodies that are able to sprout weapons out of any injury, such as chainsaws, cannons, guns or swords. A special squad of officers called "Engineer Hunters" is created to deal with them. However, unlike the average police force, the Engineer Hunters are a private quasi-military force that utilizes violence, sadism, and street side executions to maintain law and order in the havoc-ridden streets of Tokyo.
Ruka (Shiina) was taken under the wing of the police chief and made into a high-standard Engineer Hunter after her father (the man who inspired her to join the police force) was assassinated in-front of her eyes in broad daylight. Put in charge of finding the man creating the engineers, Ruka dedicates herself to investigating the man and seeking vengeance for the murder.
Damn it... This was a new shirt.
The first thing to be said, is sometimes titles are all you need to describe a film. This film invests in fake blood more or the less the same as Titanic invested in water. You know when the first few moments into a movie involve a character's head exploding like a popped water balloon, you are heading down an interesting path.
Every chop or slash leads to a geyser of blood and agonized shouts, but all of the fighting has an interesting charm to it, everything is so outlandish with whatever getting cut off changing into some form of weapon. Seeing the first blood-spattered over the top battle is almost exhilarating. Sometimes coming across as "wacky" and cartoonesque more than anything. Much more like Tom & Jerry rather than Saw. Oddly this doesn't ruin the overall tone of the film, rather adding to it. Throw in some deviancy and some terrible dubbing, you have the perfect match for a guilty pleasure.
Well it would be. The problem is realistically Tokyo Gore Police is fairly exhausting. With its length clocking up to nearly two hours, it rapidly becomes an exercise in waiting for the next mutation or gore effect to show up. The setup for the simplistic story consumes one third of the running time, while there are so many shots that take too long to get started or linger too long before moving on. This adds up to another thirty minutes or so of watching the same arterial spray shower and other repeated elements. Not to mention seemingly random scenes that appear out of nowhere such as a scene involving Ruka riding the subway and it suddenly zooms into a man devouring a box of insects with many close-ups of his mouth chewing them up.
So cute apparently!
At least some random scenes are forgivable, such as the nice homage (among many) to Robocop with in-movie social satire commercials, adding to show what a dismal world the movie is set in with a few nervous chuckles thrown in. Examples of these include: showing the police executing a child murderer in a park while children cheer on to advertise the private police service, the Wii's newest video game that allows you swipe your remote to execute criminals in real time, or the "Wrist Cutter G", marketed to schoolgirls who want wrist cutters in wardrobe matching colors. These segments add a nice breakup from the aforementioned exhaustion. The somehow even more over-the-top acting during these segments make them fairly memorable with the more outlandish scenes.
Accompanied with the social satire, Tokyo Gore Police seems to enjoy the odd parody to some of the Western and Eastern stereotypes in film. Melodramatic back stories, strange twists and token characters are all touched on, not necessarily with much taste or tact but this film is not a fan of those two words.
Gator Gal will see you again soon.
Sometimes it seems like the director was worried that the film's story was "too" simple, with long rambling scenes as if the fact seeing a woman transform into a half alligator/half human monstrosity and attempt to devour a man just isn't engaging enough for audiences to be motivated to continue watching. It does not help that the seemingly always beautiful Eihi Shiina's performance can best be described as lethargic when she's not mutilating or murdering someone. Ruka's character is written as a depressed loner who doesn't even talk that often, 95% of her screen-time is kicking ass and while that is entertaining and easy to watch, the next 5% is normally visiting her friend at a bar, looking through files and doing undercover work. Besides Ruka, the rest of the characters are strange and intriguing. The energetic blonde agent who calls the police into action, a pathologist with an odd fixation and a bizarre woman with swords for arms are a few of many.
The prosthetics with CGI touch-ups on the Engineers are great to look at and really impressive considering the amount of time they had to film. The director's previous work with make-up effects in other films makes the standard presented unsurprising but having the combination of make-up and CGI effects make the mutations really pulsate. Although they are not on par with A-list blockbuster special effects, they nicely fit in with the B-Movie feel even if some of the more intricate scenes look slightly shoddy and giving an obvious latex or rubber look. But this can be forgiven for the unexpected scenes during the half-way point where this look is utilized in an oddly appealing way in the Engineer brothel and those that work there, before things take a unexpected turn with a light finish of unsettling to match, which both distracts you and makes you focus on the work with the prosthetics.
Miss Ruka doing what she does best
In summary, Tokyo Gore Police knows what it wants to be and does so with gusto. The film is not groundbreaking or all that deep, but it is one that definitely does something different. Although the gore flip-flops between realistic and unrealistic those with weaker stomachs may want to give this one a miss. You gore hounds, horror fanatics, Grindhouse lovers, fans of the bizarre or even those looking for a unique thrill out there, are more than welcome to give this one a try.
A one-of-a-kind film that needs to be seen to be believed.