“Nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and breasts. In other words: quite a bit”
Aoki appears to have streaked like a star across the pinky violence firmament, appearing only in the trilogy of which this is the first, and one other film, Gakusei yakuza, before returning to the streets whence she came. Or I like to think that was her origin, anyway, and this is less a dramatic work, than a documentary depicting her life. Sharing the same name, Rika is the child of rape, a GI impregnating her mother before being deployed to Korea, and it’s not long before one of her mother’s boyfriends/customers [the film is sketchy on this detail] has taken a similar approach to Rika. She ends up heading an all-girl gang, but is sent to a reformatory after an opposing, male gang leader accidentally dies during a fight with her. But it’s not long before our heroine escapes, only to find some rivals have taken advantage of her absence, and the rest of the gang has been abducted and are about to be sold off to Vietnam. The boss offers to sell them to her instead, and Rika blackmails her father into paying up, only for the women to be sold anyway.
There’s another plot thread where she witnesses a pickpocket stealing documents about a waterfront reclamation project. Then there’s one about her going back to the reformatory, being involved in another fight which leads to the death of the warden, Rika’s escape, and her search for the real murderer. Or a friend, Hanako, who has fallen for a GI, about to be shipped out to Vietnam. These storylines drift in and out without much regard to logic or coherence, generally being discarded without apparent further thought, whenever the makers turn their attention to the next gaudy bauble. That’s the main problem here: it is less a film, than a collection of scenes, with a severe lack of narrative flow, to the extent this feels almost like a four-hour movie edited into 90 minutes.
However, Aoki brings the necessary earnestness to proceedings: while a little short of the true mistresses of the pinky world, like Reiko Ike, she is not bad, especially considering her apparently limited (spelled “non-existent”) acting experience. Helping things out, some of the violence is spectacularly excessive, even for a time, place and genre that specialized in spectacular excess. For instance one bullet to the back of the skull results in arterial spray out of the victim’s forehead, like a novelty soda syphon. Rika also carves off one enemy’s forearm, marches up to his boss, and if not quite slapping him across the face repeatedly with the detached limb, comes damn close. This kind of madness keeps the film consistently entertaining, even allowing for its faults and flaws, which are no less obvious. By the end – which has Rika crashing a wedding and lobbing fireworks around, before whizzing off on her Electra Glide [or some similarly cool bike, I’ve no idea] – I was kinda sad to see the character go, if not the lazy screenwriting. Parts 2 + 3 will stray across my eyeballs onto this site in due course, I’ve no doubt.
Dir: Kō Nakahira
Star: Rika Aoki, Masane Tsukayama, Yoshihiro Nakadai, Masami Souda