Ami is an ordinary high-school girl. She and her younger brother are orphaned. When her brother, Yu, is bullied and killed by a local gang, whose leader, Sho Kimura, is the son of a violent Ninja/Yakuza boss, Ami vows to take revenge. She begins killing the bullies responsible for her brothers death. When her arm is cut off after being caught by Sho’s father, she approaches Miki, a mother grieving the loss of her own son at the hands of Sho’s gang. Miki, a mechanic, makes a machine-gun arm for the girl and the two of them set of together for revenge.
The film is an over-the-top splatter comedy and shouldn’t be taken seriously at all as any form of high art. The plot is paper thin and characters are painted very broadly and show little development. But the villains are suitably repulsive and the heroine suitable likeable. The violence is extreme, blood fountaining from arteries, severed heads, limbs and other gruesome spectacles abound. The direction is pretty good at capturing that frenetic comic-book style and there are many cruel jokes that cross the bad taste line in staggering style. In places the film lacks a certain sheen and looks very amateurish, but it is low-brow in the enjoyably inventive sense and never lacks pace even if it lacks a coherent narrative.
Not for the squeamish or those looking to be intellectually challenged, but if you’re a fan of gore and violent spectacle and can appreciate the tongue-in-cheek black humour this might be for you.
Set a near future dystopia where the newly privatised Tokyo Police Force does battle against augmented humans known as “Engineers”, a highly skilled officer Ruka fights to uncover what is driving the spate of violence across the city. The film begins with a friendly announcement by a policeman explaining that they are there to help the citizens. This is rudely interrupted when his head explodes in a shower of blood that is unexpected and genuinely shocking. It should be said before we proceed much further that this film takes a strong stomach to get through as there are some genuinely disturbing images throughout. Following this we cut to one of these “Engineers”, a zombie-like being with a chainsaw replacing one arm. He has killed a lot of people and after dispatching an entire police troop in a brutal symphony of churned up viscera, severed body parts, and fountains of blood, our heroine Ruka, armed with a katana is sent in to clean up, expertly disarming the criminal (pun fully intended). This opening sequence serves as a sort of aperitif for what is to follow. If you can get through it without vomiting, then you are probably good to proceed (although they do continuously attempt to outdo this bold opening). The police manage to dig a key-shaped tumour out of the corpse’s head and it is this that is believed to make them into killers, somehow transforming ordinary citizens into bloodthirsty monsters who adapt their bodies to make them more efficient at bloody slaughter.
Although it is buried beneath all the insanity there is a fairly standard cop-drama plot driving Tokyo Gore Police from one outrageous set-piece to the next. It is admirable that they attempted to do something with Ruka’s character and there are even emotional scenes concerning her relationship with her father and issues with depression that help create a somewhat rounded character. Eihi Shiina (Audition) plays the heroine with style pulling off both drama and action. The film also includes a number of satirical commercials that play throughout. These largely poke fun at police violence and the suicide problem in Japanese society. Subtlety is not something this film frets over and it is fun to see the extreme way that topics are handled. The one issue I had with the story is that it is a little disjointed. Themes will be raised and then not mentioned for a long time and scenes are occasionally edited together in sequences that do not work to the best advantage of the story. But in a film such as this, the story is really the last thing people are probably concerned about. Its primary loyalty is to horror and gore aficionados. This schlock horror goes out of its way to disgust. There is a great deal of creativity and the special effects are praiseworthy. It is great to see practical effects being used for the arterial spray and prosthetics for creatures and it makes everything more shocking than CG could ever have been. Even though you know it is just rubber and make-up you can’t help but cringe when you see people being torn up by drills or chainsaws. It should be said that there is a huge amount of humour in the film and it is clear from the over-the-top nature of everything that is going on that it is not meant to be taken too seriously. Director Yoshihiro Nishimura clearly has a great creative flair. One of the more surprising things about the film is that there were some well-crafted scenes of horror. The sequence on the train was genuinely terrifying without resorting to the grotesque. On the flipside there were disappointments when scenes such as the impact of Ruka self-harming seemed undercut by the cartoonish way it was displayed. The film actually seems unhinged at times as it veers from satire to horror to outrageous comedy.
The main theme of the film is police privatisation. It satirises the commercialisation and corporatisation of the police force and public bodies. It is also critical of the sort of enjoyment ordinary people have in seeing criminals punished in violent and inhumane ways, perhaps suggesting there is little difference between the criminals and law-abiding citizens in their basic aggression. The main villain, it is revealed, injected himself with the essences gathered from various serial killers, thus becoming a violent killer himself. This is the point at which the film becomes a little confused and seems to have had a strong idea but not the conviction to follow it through or work out a sensible plot to develop it. Instead these ideas are cast to the wind for the audience to make of what they will. This is also true of the suicide sub-plot. We learn that Ruka self-harms and are then treated to a blackly-comic commercial of high-school girls encouraging their peers to buy a special knife and cut themselves. A couple more advertisements throughout cement this theme as a central pillar of the film. But once again it is left hanging as a sort of interesting aside and has no real bearing on the plot. If you can stomach extreme gore, indescribably outrageous set-pieces of sex, violence and brutality (all with a dark comic angle), then this could be the film for you. A movie that has to be seen to be believed.