Michelle Yeoh is back! Hurrah! She would certainly be one of the inaugural members of the Girls With Guns Hall of Fame [opening soo…er, eventually], and so it’s great to see the star of Yes, Madam! and Crouching Tiger back in the action heroine genre. And she doesn’t seem to be slowing down, even as she approached her fiftieth birthday. This is Reign of Assassins, the film co-directed by John Woo, which is due for release in the fall.
“In which the ongoing problem of high blood-pressure in Japan apparently reaches epidemic proportions.”
In the near(ish) future, Japan has become a post-apocalyptic wasteland in which only the strong survive. Initially, that does not include Milly (Mizuno), who is tortured by the Jack brothers and their gang: her baby is set on fire, while she has her breasts sliced off and is left for dead. However, she survives, albeit in a partially-mechanical form, and has now devoted her life to revenge on those responsible. Her artificial enhancements include a shotgun leg, a sword up her sleeve and a chest that… Well, that has to be seen to be believed, let’s just leave it at that, shall we? That’s Hard Revenge Milly, the first of the two films on the Western release DVD.
The second, Hard Revenge Milly: Bloody Battle, has Milly being sought by some colleagues of the Jack brothers, led by Ikki (Tsujimoto), a flamboyantly gay psychopath with an attitude. “That’s why I hate bisexuals,” he says, after crushing one minion’s head into a wall for making a sexual advance on a female hostage. However, Milly now has a sidekick: Haru (Nagasawa), who wants Milly to help out with her own mission of revenge, tracking down whoever is responsible for the death of Haru’s lover. However, it turns out that her and Milly’s missions may be rather more directly aligned than initially seems the case.
If you enjoyed The Machine Girl, then this should be right up your arterial alley, as it has much the same gleeful, fire-hose approach to the carnage, at times literally painting the camera lens red. This isn’t quite as good, mostly because the pacing is off, especially in the first movie, which has too much of Milly wandering about an abandoned factory that serves as the main location. The low-budget is occasionally painfully obvious, particularly for one CGI decapitation which is less convincing than any latex head could ever be. The overall plot is also just a bit too close to Kill Bill for its own good,
The pacing is less of a problem in Bloody Battle, where the post-apocalyptic world is more fully drawn, and the production values seem to be significantly higher. The addition of Haru provides something of a mirror in which Milly can see herself – there’s an interesting question raised as to whether her revenge may be an artificial construct, and the villains are also given a bit more depth. However, you will not be watching these for subtle characterization, and Mizuno acquits herself admirably as an action actress in both installments, showing solid martial-arts and swordplay skills. While unquestionably not for the faint of heart, there’s energy and inventiveness to spare, and it’s certainly unlike anything coming out of the West.
Dir: Takanori Tsujimoto
Stars: Miki Mizuno, Nao Nagasawa, Mitsuki Koga, Kazuki Tsujimoto