Criminal Woman: Killing Melody

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“Hell hath no fury like a woman… Let’s leave it at that, shall we?”

With a bit more of an intricate plot than most entries, this is the tale of revenge served cold. The Oba Yakuza gang shoot one of their flunkies up with drugs and dump his dead body in a ditch. His daughter, Maki (Ike), tries to stab the boss responsible (Hayama) in a nightclub, but she is, frankly, a bit crap with a blade; the attack fails, and she ends up in prison. There, after proving her toughness in a jail “I quit” match, she is accepted by the other girls, including the heavily-tattooed Masayo (Sugimoto). A few years pass, and Maki gets out of jail; her friends are waiting, and they agree to help in her plan for vengeance. This involves Tetsu, the psycho scion of the Hamayasu clan, who used to rule things before the Oba group came in and kicked their asses. Maki will use him as the scapegoat, to trigger war between the groups, then step in to take out Oba once he has been weakened. That’s the plan, anyway, with Maki whoring herself out, to (gasp!) foreigners and even (shock!) a black airman to get resources. However, a large spanner in the works is that Masayo is also Oba’s wife…

I liked the way the girls play the two sides off against each other, using their greed and anger to make them suspicious of each other – it reminded me of spaghetti Western Fistful of Dollars, or more accurately, I suppose, Kurosawa’s Samurai movie Yojimbo on which it was based. However, from an action-heroine point of view, that’s the film’s biggest weakness, as the ladies largely sit on the sidelines, stoking the fire, rather than opening fire themselves. The exceptions are a pair of monumental brawls between Maki and Masayo, that act as bookends to their character development, and possess interesting similarities, from the way both start as knife-fights before becoming hand-to-hand battles, right down to the white powder in which they end up rolling around.

As usual, Ike and Sugimoto hold the viewer’s attention effectively, and I also note the use of a chainsaw by a mobster, an entire decade before Al Pacino went ape in the shower with one for Scarface. That’s a particularly nasty sequence, with Maki bound – as usual, topless – slapped around and threatened with said chainsaw. Then Masayo turns up, with a lit cigarette, and explains to hubby that she knows better “how to torture a woman”. Oh, my… Yep, what transpires is certainly both pink and violent.

Dir: Atsushi Mihori
Star: Reiko Ike, Miki Sugimoto, Yumiko Katayama, Ryoji Hayama

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