“It’s not precious, and has very little mettle.”
Miike has provided some of our favorite Japanese films of all-time, including Audition, Ichi the Killer and The Bird People of China, but this entry in his prolific output has to count as a misfire, being nowhere near as interesting as it sounds. Heroine Jun (Sakuraba) is abroad when her entire family is killed by Yakuza: three years later, after working as an FBI agent (!) and continuing her karate education, she returns home, to track down those responsible. She does this by going undercover in a pro wrestling promotion (!!), on the basis they can tour the country without suspicion, letting her investigate as her wrestling alter-ego, Silver. However, she’s not the only one on the hunt, with a dart-using assassin contracted to stop Jun.
Let me repeat, however: nowhere near as interesting as it sounds. Initially, this starts off looking like it is going to be a Japanese version of those Santo movies (wrestler by day, crime-fighter by night), and it’s nice to see real wrestlers, like Shinobu Kandori. However, that angle is completely ignored, as if Miike got bored and drifted of. Instead, Jun heads into the seamier side of the Japanese underground, taking on a dominatrix and her slave, leading to a series of scenes which certainly have the Miike twisted sensibility. This is not necessarily a good thing, however; unless you’re into S&M, they far outstay their welcome, as does the tedious, soft-core (and pretty un-Miikeesque) sex sequence between Jun and her handler. As the film progresses, the main thing keeping it afloat is simply to see how weird it’s going to get, after the forced urine-drinking and someone getting their (digitized) dick smacked with a paddle.
Matters are not helped by the vague, nondescript ending, which clearly indicates this was supposed to be the first in a series. That no second installment ever materialized, even given the low cost of producing this, indicates that even the Japanese were uninterested. Given the huge volume of Miike’s work – at time of writing, the IMDB has 83 directorial credits for him – I suppose it’s no surprise some, like this, will be uninteresting at best.
Dir: Takashi Miike
Star: Atsuko Sakuraba, Kenji Haga, Rumi Kazama, Hisao Maki