Just goes to show that the “cinematic reboot” is not a 21st-century invention, e.g. Batman or James Bond. For a mere three years after Meiko Kaji showed her sting as Nami, the studio reset the series, giving it a new director, new (and much more talkative) lead actress, and returning Nami Matsushima to a happy, criminal record-free young women, with a loving boyfriend. Except, of course, he turns out not to love her quite as much. Things start to collapse after her sister uncovers evidence of major government corruption, and passes it to Nami, shortly before being kidnapped. After Nami uncovers the truth – her sister is killed and she is framed for the murder, with the help of her boyfriend, and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Initially an easy mark for the tough girls in her cell, Nami soon develops her mean streak. And she’s going to need it, because the politician behind it all is looking to tidy up the loose end she represents, by killing her and making the death look like a suicide. Name turns the tables, in incendiary fashion, and it’s clear that she’s one loose end that won’t be quietly disposed of.
Y’know how On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is a really great Bond film, with a crappy Bond, Lazenby being the merest shadow of Connery? That’s the situation we have here. The film would be perfectly serviceable, but with every (largely superfluous) word, gesture and action, the viewer can’t help but be reminded of Kaji, who simply fits the character being depicted here, far better. Not that Takigawa is a bad actress. It is just that Kaji made such a strong impression in the role, anyone else playing the character is almost bound to seem like a pale imitation in comparison. Without Kaji or the surrealist touches brought to the previous entries by Shunya Ito, there really isn’t much to distinguish this from the rougher end of the pinku genre, with Kohira appearing to take particular interest in the rape.
The sections after Nami breaks out are the best, in terms of style, and it’s hard to put your finger on any problems: “competent” is likely a good word for this. But probably the most damning indictment, is that I watched the film, wrote most of the review, and then realized almost nothing about the second half had stuck in my mind at all. I ended up having to pull the movie up, just to convince myself I hadn’t been called away to dinner half-way through or something. I hadn’t: it had just failed to make any significant impression on me.
Dir: Yutaka Kohira
Star: Yumi Takigawa, Ryoko Ema, Nobuo Kaneko, Ichiro Nakaya