“Grimly fiendish yet effective killers’ romance.”
Mob boss Daidohji (Yutani) has the city almost within his grasp, thanks to a minion promising him material he can use to blackmail the mayor. But his success is short-lived, as the minion is taken our by Rei (Takeda), who is then ordered by her boss Takefuji (Nishioka) to finish the job, taking out Diadohji and the rest of his gang. Not that the mobster is sitting back and waiting: he hires his own assassin, Katsumura (Matsusa), to get to Rei before she can get to him. However, neither killer is exactly happy with their role as pawns in the bigger scheme of things, and when they meet, it’s time for a little R&R. As in “romance and rebellion.”
This is the best of the saga which I’ve seen to date, mainly because it does a better job of striking a balance among the various elements. The storyline and characterization are not lazily ignored in preference for more easily exploitable elements; not that there’s any shortage of either sex or violence, but they seem to flow naturally from the plot, rather than appearing to drive it. The relationship between Katsumura and Rei has some credibility to it, with each seeing a reflection of themselves in the other. But will that be able to over-ride Rei’s strong loyalties to Section Zero? The film does a good job of keeping that in doubt, right up to the very end, where Rei is given the ultimate in ultimatums by Takefuji, and it’s not clear what way she’s going to jump.
There’s also a nice, slick look to the film, which unfolds under an apparent endless array of neon lights, and on perpetually-moist streets, a visual style that helps conceal the low-budget nature of proceedings. While the story may rely to heavily on the clichés of the genre, those involved, on both sides of the camera, execute – pun not intended – their responsibilities with enough flair and energy to counter-balance its shortcomings, and the end result is certainly a significant improvement on the first two films in the revived series.
Dir: Masahide Kuwabara
Star: Kumiko Takeda, Keiji Matsuda, Charlie Yutani, Tokuma Nishioka