“Heroin with guns. No, that’s not a typo.”
Based on a popular manga series by Tõru Shinohara, who gave us Sasori, I’m guessing this was also the inspiration for Police Branch 82, not least because the heroines in both work for a department by that number. I mean, what are the odds? Here, it’s described as “A secret department that investigates civil service crime,” and one of its detectives is 24-year-old Maki (Yokoyama), who has a reputation for not caring about the carnage she causes in getting her man. In an apparent effort to rope her in, she is assigned a new partner, Rin Kakura (Kaoru), who is rather less feminine, shall we say. This happens after Tajma, the executive Maki is supposed to be watching, ends up falling from a balcony in what looks like a suicide, but clearly isn’t. That turns out just to be the start, as the executive’s gay lover is trying to blackmail Takebe, an army buddy of Tajima who is now the chairman of their company. Adding even more complexity to a plot that was already groaning under the weight of all these threads, when the lover is stabbed on a city street, his killers are trailed by our heroines, back to a right-wing paramilitary organization. That’s when the trouble really starts, as Maki is kidnapped and pumped full of heroin…
It’s an extremely unsatisfactory script, which seems to rely too much on coincidence and doesn’t bother to explain itself at any point. For instance, Rin just happens to be hanging around outside a car-park when the kidnappers leave, intending to dump Maki’s body; similarly, one of the gang, just happens to find the car in which they are holding a suspect. And the second half of this diverts itself off into mostly being about a staged “false flag” operation, a bank robbery intended to distract the media from the blossoming political scandal. The villains liberate a trio of convicted killers from prison, with the hope of luring Department 82 into action – even though, as Rin herself says, it’s way outside their normal scope of investigation. The purpose and point of this is never adequately covered, and it seems as if the writers maybe had 30 pages of an unfinished script for another movie, and figured they might as well use it here.
For positives, I have to say, I liked Rin as a heroine, because she is not the willowy archetype often seen in this kind of film, whose top falls off at the slightest provocation. Instead, Kaoru genuinely looks like she could kick your arse, and would enjoy doing it; I haven’t been able to find any supporting evidence, but it would not surprise me if she was a pro wrestler – that’s the kind of look she possesses. The final shoot-out, as Rin and (the suddenly much better – I guess nothing kicks a heroin habit quicker than a good ol’ hostage situation) Maki storm the bank, is also fairly well-staged. However, I’ll be honest: it took me two attempts to get that far, the first having ended in an afternoon snooze on the couch instead. Never a good sign.
Dir: Chusei Sone
Star: Emi Yokoyama, Jumbo Kaoru, Kishida Mori, Yamatani Hatsuo