Tiger of the Seven Seas

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“Good, for the (Spanish) Main part”

tigerofthesevenseasAnother in the flurry of Italian female pirate flicks of the sixties, this stars Canale as Consuelo, the daughter of a pirate captain. After he retires from the buccaneering business, she defeats her lover, William (Steel) in a duel to decide who takes command. Her father is killed with William’s knife a short while after, but they are attacked by the Spanish forces of Governor Inigo de Cordoba (Calindri) before her boyfriend can be hung for the crime. In the ensuing confusion, William escapes, and makes off with the ship. Consuelo and her followers, hijack another vessel and give chase. But is William the real culprit, or is this part of a plan cooked up by the Governor’s scheming wife, Anna (Spina), who seeks to get her hands on the horde of treasure which was buried in a secret location by Consuelo’s father, before his death?

The action is a bit disappointing here, with most of the sword-fights consisting of not much more than the two participants standing at arm’s-length from each other, waving their weapons. The story is also rather predictable, with few if any of the developments being unexpected. We just know William is going to be proven innocent, even if he looks like a young, piratical version of Lou Reed. ]Maybe that’s just me?] What do work, are the characters, who are an enjoyable bunch to spend time with – even the villainous Anna, who is clearly the brains of the marriage. She’s an excellent foil for Consuelo, who is equally smart and brave; she certainly makes a strong first impression, hurling a knife at William, and embedding it in the trunk of a tree by his face.

The spectacle side of things is well-integrated, though I have an idea some of the footage may have been lifted from other pirate pictures, as it doesn’t quite seem to match; it was certainly not Capuano’s sole foray into the genre. Everything builds nicely to the standard adventure film cliche, #37: the masked ball, which Consuelo infiltrates in the cunning guise of…a pirate, to rescue William, after he made an ill-advised attempt to storm the fortress and abduct the traitor. This leads to an all-out battle, perhaps most remarkable for the “raining cannons” sequence, but despite what I said about the plot having no twists, I must admit, the final conclusion is not one I saw coming, with the villainess getting off surprisingly easily, compared to other potential fates. She actually gets the treasure, though at the cost of letting Consuelo and William go. I like to imagine the sequel has them heading back to reclaim her father’s loot, and I certainly wouldn’t have minded seeing more of their adventures, and it’s a shame no such follow-up ever emerged.

Dir: Luigi Capuano
Star: Gianna Maria Canale, Anthony Steel, Maria Grazia Spina, Ernesto Calindri

The Trail

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“God told me to do it.”

thetrailI’m not religious, and “faith-based” films normally have me running a mile, though I confess a certain guilty fondness for the more extreme, Revelations-based work [I mean, have you ever read Revelations? The things that go down are certifiably insane. This is what Hollywood should be making, not Noah or Moses stories]. But it was only at the end of this, with a final title quoting a Bible verse, that I realized The Trail likely falls into the category, as shown by the alternate title; fortunately, it’s very much understated, and can be appreciated even by godless heathens like myself. Amelia (Jandreau) is on her way to California as part of a wagon train with her husband (Brown), when they decided to split off on their own, he believing he knows a short cut. Unfortunately, they are attacked by Indians, and Amelia is left, on her own, in the middle of nowhere, to try and make her way through a vast, unforgiving wilderness.

The closest cousin is Nicolas Roeg’s brilliant Walkabout, not least because Jandreau bears more than a passing resemblance to Walkabout‘s star, Jenny Agutter: both have a similar pale beauty, and habit of opening their mouths just a smidge. The similarity is also in the relationship Amelia strikes up with a young indigenous child (Nash) she meets, that proves crucial to her chances of survival, echoing the one in Roeg’s film. However, the take here is a good deal less earthy and primitive in its themes, and Amelia is a good deal less dependent, instead being a lot more pro-active, which is why it merits coverage on this site, being equally a story of self-discovery and survival against the odds. Indeed, perhaps its main weakness is, rather too much against the odds: while there’s not much idea of the overall timeframe here, she survives blizzards clad only in a light dress (the kid is sensibly wearing furs), and doesn’t seem to do much hunting or gathering beyond a tiny fish. Maybe that’s supposed to represent the power of her faith?

Despite throwing this on late at night, it managed to hold my interest better than you think it might, considering the lack of conventional action sequences: it’s more or less 95 minutes of Amelia versus the great outdoors. It helps that the heroine is given an inner strength of character – again, I presume in hindsight, this is a religious thing – and determination to overcome any obstacle, sometimes with inventiveness, such as when she turns her wedding dress into a fishing-net. The landscapes are fabulous, and the photography does both them and the heroine justice, capturing the latter with an almost luminescent glow. As a different take on the era, eschewing the obvious characters and situations, it’s worth a look if you’re in a more contemplative mood.

Dir: William Parker
Star: Jasmin Jandreau, Tommy Nash, Shannon Brown
a.k.a. Let God

Traitors

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“Punk’s not dead.”

traitorsWhat counts as an “action heroine” is dependent on culture. As was saw in Offside, if you’re Iranian, something as apparently normal as going to a football game can be a dangerously transgressive act. The heroine here, Malika (Ben Acha), has a little more freedom, living in Morocco, but it’s hardly an oasis of feminist freedom by Western standards. Still, she’s pretty out there, being the lead singer in a punk band, the titular Traitors, and also a dab hand with a monkey wrench, working intermittently in her father’s garage. It’s the former that she sees as her ticket out, and a door opens when a producer expresses interest in the band, and offers to help them record a demo. The catch? They have to pay for the studio time themselves: that’s several months’ wages, and it doesn’t help that Malika has just been fired. But a garage customer (Zeguendi) offers her a solution: a one-night job doing a little driving for him.

She’s under no illusions about the reality of what she’s driving, but on the journey from the mountains to Tangiers, she talks to her fellow “mule,” the veteran Amal (Issami), and discovers the unpleasant truths about those she’s working for – worse still, the people above them – as well as that leaving the organization will probably be a lot harder than joining it. When Malika finds out that Amal is pregnant, she hatches a plan that’s either very brave or extremely foolhardy (not that these things are mutually exclusive), to allow her colleague the change to escape. However, doing so will certainly bring down the wrath of her employers, who have a track record of not tolerating employee disloyalty with a forgiving eye.

This is one of those films that is on the fringes of qualification for the site. Malika doesn’t wield a gun or kick anyone’s arse,  but there’s an exchange between the two young women which convinced me of its worth, and that in spirit at least, the heroine is part of the sisterhood we cover here.

Amal: “There was a proverb my mother used to say: if you are the nail, you must endure the knocking.”
Malika: “That’s only half of the proverb. The other part is: if you are the hammer, strike.”

I want that on a T-shirt, and it exemplifies Malika’s attitude perfectly: she’s a hammer made flesh, like her hero, the late Joe Strummer. Of course, the downside of that is, when you’re a hammer, everything else starts looking like a nail. However, Ben Acha does a good job of making a character that could easily have been obnoxious and abrasive, sympathetic instead. The film’s biggest weakness is a script that seems to run out of steam before the end, without anything like a satisfactory climax; instead, it peters out in a not very satisfactory and largely unconvincing manner. Perhaps this is related to this feature being developed out of a short film featuring the same character? Still, it’s a unique little item, and who knew there was such as thing as Moroccan punk – even if it’s every bit as shitty as much of the Western variety!

Dir: Sean Gullette
Star: Chaimae Ben Acha, Soufia Issami, Driss Roukhe, Mourade Zeguendi

Tigresa

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“Tigresa, tigresa, burning bright…”

tigresaTIL there’s a genre of cinema – indeed, an entire culture – called “Nuyorican”, which is for and by the immigrants from Puerto Rico who now live in and around New York. del Mar made five such movies, mostly in the late sixties, but this 1969 production is the sole action heroine entry. It has a nice sense of local atmosphere, feeling a bit like the early work of Abel Ferrara, but also has it’s moments of berserk insanity, which one can only presume must have made sense at the time.

The heroine is Patricia (Faith), a young woman who is bullied by her schoolmates, and whose life reaches a low after she is assaulted by a bedroom intruder, an attack which also results in the death of her father. But, in a plot twist I defy anyone to see coming, she is left half a million dollars in the last will of a Jewish store-owner for whom she works, and this lets Patricia dye her hair blonde and sets her up as the owner of a nightclub, the ‘Chateau Caribe’. She has also developed a heck of a lot more self-confidence, allowing her to take revenge on her former tormentors, rescue other women from assault and continue looking for the man responsible for her assault and her father’s demise. However, her friend, Maria (Lee), has plans to rob Patricia, with the help of her boyfriend, Jimmy (H) – who, it turns out, was also the rapist. They concoct a scheme for Jimmy to seduce Patricia, providing a distraction which will allow them to break into her safe.

There are also subplots involving the local mafiosi, and a police detective (Crespo), who doggedly attempts to solve the crime by dressing as a transvestite hooker. I’m not quite sure hoe that’s intended to work: it might take a while, to say the very least, and my instinct is it probably says more about the cop’s personal proclivities than anything. Certainly puts a new spin on “to protect and serve”. I liked Faith’s performance, since she genuinely manages to get your sympathy, as the dysfunctional nature of her relationship with her father becomes apparent. He gets drunk because its the only way he says he can see his late wife; so she then gets drunk, wanting to see her dead mother too. This is accompanied by a tinkly, music-box like score that’s quite poignant – well, up until the point that the musical cue gets overused to death, anyway.

After her transition into the tigresa [incidentally, the “La” part of the title seen on the DVD sleeve appears to be entirely the distributor’s addition], she’s still quite a laudable character, taking no shit from the organized crime boss. She refuses to let him use her club as a front for drugs and prostitution, but does partner with him in exchange for his help finding her attacker. Though this just consists of wandering local gyms trying to find someone with the distinctive back scar which was her assailant’s sole distinguishing feature – I’d have expected better from the mob. It’s just a good thing absolutely no-one in these places ever wears a shirt. There’s another bizarre diversion where she meets a gangster, who then goes home to discover his wife in bed with another man. So he drowns her in the bathtub and decapitates her lover, before vanishing from the film entirely.

Yeah, it’s like that: nonsensical in many ways, and obviously cheaply made, with performances all over the place, from the monotone to the hysterical. Yet it’s strangely hypnotic, and you find yourself watching, just to see what will happen next and in what surreal way things will develop. For all its many faults, I can’t say I ever found Tigresa dull. There are GWG films which are so forgettable, I find myself struggling to write 300 words on them. This was certainly not one of those.

Dir: Glauco del Mar
Star: Perla Faith, Johnny H, Cindy Lee, Guillermo Crespo

They Call Me Macho Woman!

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“A B-movie, and entirely unashamed of it.”

macho womanLurking behind what has surely to be one of the worst titles in cinema history (truly a Troma creation), to my surprise, this is actually a solid enough little low-budget flick – albeit one that is straightforward to the point of idiocy. Widow Susan Morris (Sweeney – blonde, so definitely not the woman on the cover!) is out in the wilds. looking for a house where she can get away from it all. Unfortunately, she crosses paths with the monstrous Mongo (Oldfield, who reminds me of someone, but I can’t work out who) and his gang of drug-peddlers, and they do not take kindly to the interruption. It isn’t long before Susan has to find herself a new realtor. And that’s the least of her worries, as she finds herself perpetually in peril from the gang, who have every intent of raping and then killing her. Or maybe killing her, then raping her. They don’t seem too fussy about that. But everybody has their breaking point, and when they push Susan too far, she snaps, and takes the fight to her attackers.

Yes, it’s dumb. Yes, it’s cheap. Yes, it makes little or no sense, in particular her sudden transformation from plucky but largely ineffective heroine [who can’t even stab someone in a way that causes them more than moderate discomfort] into a warrior woman, capable of embedding a shiny axe in your head from 15 paces. But, you know what? It’s never boring, and I’ve sat through more than my fair share of low-budget crap that figures talk is cheap – so we’ll pad things out with lots and lots of that, before getting to anything approaching the meaty stuff. No such bait and switch here. We open with Mongo demonstrating his favourite weapon, a headpiece with a spike attached, which makes him look like a disgruntled unicorn, and after little more than five minutes of backstory involving Susan chatting to the real-estate agent, things kick off. And once they do, they don’t stop kicking until the final credits roll after 81 briskly entertaining minutes, as she is harried from one peril to the next, with laudable diligence (if variable competence) by Mongo and his henchmen.

Few involved here show any degree of acting talent, yet this shortcoming doesn’t matter very much, since we’re dealing with broad caricatures – let’s face it, subtlety would be a waste of time. There are some ludicrous mis-steps, such as the sequence where Susan escapes by running over the heads of the gang, which appears to have strayed in from a Jet Li movie. In what world does this even make sense? It could also have done with ramping up the exploitation elements considerably: much of the violence is implied (though the guy getting impaled on a nail was nicely done) and there’s no nudity. If talk is cheap, breasts are almost as inexpensive, and much more appreciated. It would also have helped if the stuntman used to stand-in for Sweaney, had been given a wig that matched her hair: hers is wavy, his is curly, and the difference is obvious. Yet I can’t bring myself to hate this, despite its obvious flaws. I was satisfactorily entertained, even without the use of alcohol.

Dir: Patrick G. Donahue
Star: Debra Sweaney, Brian Oldfield, Sean P. Donahue, Mike Donahue
a.k.a. Savage Instinct

Twins Mission

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“To bead, or not to bead, that is the question…”

Twins_Mission-posterTwins Effect, the first film starring the Cantopop duo, Twins, was a frothily entertaining mix of action and humour, that was surprisingly entertaining. Its sequel? Despite a stellar supporting cast, and some great action, not so much, with a historical setting, and a balance that tilted unfavourably towards comedy. This third entry does at least return to the modern era, and also continues some impressively slick fights – and more broken glass than any other movie I can immediately think of – but has a similarly lumpy attitude, feeling almost like two films spliced together.

The McGuffin is a Tibetan relic called the Heaven’s Bead, long alleged to have magical powers to cure illness – which is actually pretty damn big, since I was expecting something that could be measured in millimetres, rather than feet. On its way by train, a robbery attempted staged by an evil collective of twins (rather than Twins, if you see what I mean) leads to it ending up in a bag belonging to the owner of a store in a Hong Kong mall. Meanwhile, good twins Pearl (Chung) and Jade (Choi) are working as trapeze artists in the circus, but end up helping the guardian of the bead, Uncle Lucky (Hung) and his adopted son (Wu) to track down the artefact. But the evil twins also have their agent, Lillian, who is lured in with the promise of the bead’s power being use to cure her cancer-stricken little sister, the unfortunately-named Happy.

Yes, this doesn’t exactly take the high road in terms of pathos, milking child illness for every ounce of maudlin sentimentality it can muster, when not making xenophobic jokes about the funny way foreigners speak. There is also a fight over an autographed picture of David Copperfield [Jade + Pearl’s idol], which ends with it being eaten by a hippo. This apparently tells us two things about China: people still care about David Copperfield, and it may be the only place where circuses that use wild animals are still welcome. I’m not sure which is more surprising, but that’s the level of nonsense between the action that you will have to endure, and I’m not sure the plot makes any actual sense in terms of logic or motivation. Fortunately, the saving grace is said action, with one standout fight between the good twins and several sets of evil twins in the mall, and another at the end, in the evil twins’ lair. Both are long, inventive sequences on finding new and interesting ways to break plate glass, though both the wire-fu and the stunt doubling for the starlets are a bit excessive.

I originally gave this 2.5 stars, then upped it to three, when I realized that was what I gave Twins Effect II, and this surely wasn’t any worse, was it? But on further reflection, it probably was, and I downgraded it again: there’s about 20 good minutes in this, and even Sammo couldn’t save the rest.

Dir: Kong Tao-Hoi
Star: Charlene Choi, Gillian Chung, Wu Jing, Sammo Hung

They Call Her Cleopatra Wong

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“The biggest strawberry jam factory in this area is the Catholic monastery over the hill.”

Cleopatra-Wong-poster-1978-1“Cleopatra Wong is Asian Interpol’s answer to James Bond, Flint, Cleopatra Jones and Stacey.” Well, less an answer, more like a repetition of the question, since this is firmly in “cheap Asian knock-off” market, though has some charm in its first half. Wong (Lee) is an agent, assigned to investigate a flood of near-undetectable counterfeit money which is flooding the markets in Hong Kong, the Philippines and elsewhere in the far East. It’s happening in such volume, there’s potential to destabilize the entire economies of the affected countries. She takes down the Singapore branch of the operation, and then discovers the money is being transported in shipments of strawberry jam, emanating from a monastery north of Manilla. After finding them to be not exactly a social order, Wong takes pictures by flying over their compound, which shows that these nuns have some nasty habits – specifically, they’re brothers rather than sisters, and concealing automatic weapons under their vestments. Time for Cleo to assemble and lead a team of crack agent in a raid on the convent, take out the bad guys, rescue the real nuns and save the world for free-market capitalism.

First point. No, they’re not mispronouncing “Asian” throughout the film. They are actually saying “ASEAN countries,” with ASEAN being the Association of South-East Asian Nations, which is a bit like the EU for that part of the world. Never say this site is not educational. Now we’ve got that out of the way, what of the film? It’s very much a mixed bag. Lee makes a pretty and solid action heroine, especially considering she was only 18 at the time. She demonstrates martial-arts skills that are better than many films of its era (which would be 1978), and it’s largely free from the two most frequent flaws of the era in action heroine films. obvious body-doubling and undercranking. There are some cute moments, such as Wong getting her own back on her boss, after he has interrupted her lovemaking at four in the morning, by interrupting his love-making at four in the morning.

However, the plot is extremely basic, with aspects that are cringeworthily naive. For instance, Cleopatra’s way of infiltrating the Singapore gang involves spending their fake money until she gets caught – which surprisingly little time, given the “near-undetectable” thing mentioned earlier. When this make headlines news in the local paper (the local oligarchs must have paid for this encouraging depiction of low local crime rates), the real organizers of the fake money then bail her out and bring her back to their headquarters for interrogation. I dunno, maybe it was a simpler time for international supervillains. But the main problem is the horrendously over-extended attack on the convent, which is an apparently endless sequence of running, shooting and falling over. Part of the problem is that the heroine isn’t particularly heroic, becoming just one-fifth of the team, rather than standing out on her own terms, as was the basis for the first hour. While it does give us the iconic image below, which made the front cover of the iconic Mondo Macabro book, there is about 20 minutes of tedium to endure, until the final bit of sizzle, involving explosive-tipped arrows and a helicopter. This includes a long sequence, in which all five members climb up a wall, one by one, in what feels like real time. The lead character did appear in a couple more movies after her introduction here, and despite the failings of the finale here, I was entertained enough to add them to the “for future consideration” list.

Dir: Bobby A. Suarez (as “George Richardson”)
Star: Marrie Lee, Franco Guerrero, Dante Varonna, George Estregan

Cleopatra-Wong

The Top Lady Of Sword

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“The Yung and the VERY restless…”

topswordThis Taiwanese production focuses on a martial arts get-together, organized by the honorable Chi (Tsang), as a way for all the local artists to settle any beefs with each other. Arriving in town are brothers Au Lung and Wong Hu (Wan), who are out for revenge on Lady Yung (Wong), who had killed another of their brothers, though it was actually an honourable battle. Au Lung is content to forget their revenge, until he falls under the spell of a local inn-owner, who has a plan to seduce him, and use Au Lung as a tool to steal Chi’s martial arts manual and become the top fighter. When Chi turns up dead, Yung is blamed,  and after that is sorted out, her husband and daughter as then kidnapped by Au Lung. Yung, her sister Shao Chung (Khan) and Wong Hu set off in a desperate effort to rescue the hostages.

There’s a lot to enjoy here, and about the only thing stopping it from getting a seal of approval is that it’s very wuxia – so if you’re not fully prepared for people flying through the air and severely undercranked action, this will seem laughable. It’s one of those occasions where less could have been more. But, personally, I still found it a great deal of fun, with a well thought-out plot, engaging characters and some nice twists on the usual themes. For instance, there’s a lovely bit of role reversal, where it’s Yung’s husband who is the stay at home one, and she is running around the countryside, fighting battles against, it seems, everyone who crossed her path. Additionally, I liked the brief diversion into almost a kung-fu “whodunnit” in the middle, and on the other end of the emotional spectrum, there’s a body-count which is surprisingly high. If I don’t want to spoiler who lives and who dies, let’s just say there’s more of the latter.

The bottom line, however, is the martial arts, and these sequences are copious and well-staged, under action coordinator Alan Chan. The various performers get to showcase a broad variety of their styles, and they mesh together well. Everyone gets their moments to shine, will all three of the leading ladies looking very impressive. This one is available on Youtube with subtitles, and even if the quality of the print leaves a fair bit to be desired, it still makes for an entertaining 90 minutes, and is a case where a film’s obscurity is no reflection of its merits.

Dir: Wong Hong
Star: Wong Chau-Yin, Deric Wan, Kenneth Tsang, Cynthia Khan
a.k.a. Lady Chrysanthemum Sword

Tokyo Ballistic War

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“Long live the new flesh.”

tokyoballisticI’m on the fence with regard to the Japanese uber-gore films, most notably, by the Sushi Typhoon studio, which have achieved renown (or infamy) of late. While some (Mutant Girls Squad) are entertaining nonsense, others (Helldriver) are pretty tedious. So, the concept of lower-budget, exploitation-er versions of these, already low-budget exploitation flicks, is a mixed blessing. Enter Zen Pictures, and their formula, which appears to consist of costumed heroines who alternately fight and get tortured. The story here is split into two volumes, but with each barely an hour long and containing plenty of filler, probably better to consider them a single, feature-length entry.

I do like the central story, which is daft as a brush, yet executed with the right level of straight-faced intensity. In order to market his half-human, half-machine cyborgs to the military, Koumoto, chairman of the Dainippon company, comes up with a cunning plan: create a set of female athletes, who will smash all existing records. However, he has forgotten the Japanese Sports Association, under chief Gondo, who don’t take kindly to these performance-enhancing shenanigans. The solution? Naturally, build their own (eco-friendly!) cyborg to fight the Dainippon team. Except, due to an administrative cock-up, the original candidate, Megumi Asaoka (Taki), is accidentally replaced by Ai Asaoka (Noda). Initially, Ai is successful, but after being captured by Koumoto, she is reprogrammed, and her friend Megumi has to battle to rescue Ai.

The first volume is significantly better, though still has its weaknesses, not the least being more evidence that crappy CGI is far less endearing than crappy practical effects – and there’s enough of both to be seen here. However, it whizzes along with sufficient energy, and contains plenty of action, to merit forgiveness for the obvious poverty-row origins, and everyone involved chews scenery to amusing effect. After the break, unfortunately, things slow down, with a pair of lengthy torture sequences which had absolutely no value for me whatsoever, and the fights seemed, to a large extent, repeats of those from the first volume. Both parts also have another severe weakness – taking an idea and running with it, well past the point where it stops being interesting. Case in point: one of the battles includes the participants each releasing a cyborg arm, which then stage their own fight, independently. For 15 seconds, it’s kinda amusing. After a minute, it’s dull. But the film keeps going far beyond that, and there are plenty of similar cases; the surgery which turns Ai into a cyborg is also depicted at far greater length than necessary. Maybe this is some Japanese fetish thing, of which I was previously unaware.

tokyoballistic2This is definitely a case where less would have been more, and with a more enthusiastic hand on the editor’s knife, this could have become a decent eighty-minute feature – and possibly an even better 50-minute one. Kamikura does often demonstrate an awareness and acceptance of exactly how ludicrous the entire scenario is, and the film is at its best when wholeheartedly embracing its own insanity. For instance, each of the cyborg athletes’ talents is influenced by their sport: Hitomi Oka is a tennis-player, so whacks people with an over-sized, pneumatic racket, and lobs exploding tennis-balls at them. Additional helpings of that kind of imaginative lunacy – and considerably less tied-up schoolgirls being prodded or whipped – would certainly have made for a more entertaining end product.

Dir: Eiji Kamikura
Star: Ayaka Noda, Arisa Taki, Masahiro Saito, Shinya Nakamura

Travelers: Dimension Police

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“Explanations? They’re vastly over-rated.”

Travelers_-_Dimension_Police_PosterThis doesn’t so much hit the ground running, as plummet into it at top speed, to such an extent I genuinely stopped the film, to check if this was perhaps part two of an ongoing series. It isn’t: it’s just that unconcerned about explanations. What seems to be going on, is a universe where the different dimensions are now connected. Hence, there’s Retro World, Fairy World, Lost World, etc. This offers new criminal possibilities; to counter these, a trans-dimensional police force is also created. One such officer is Ai (Nagasawa), but her mission, to protect a psychic (Takayama) against the terrorist group Doubt is thrown into… Well, doubt after she meets her former partner Yui (Kinoshita), who appears to have thrown her lot in on the side of the villains.

At least, I think some of the above is probably fairly accurate. I am not prepared to commit any more strongly than that. Easily the best thing this has to offer are the actual fight: Sakamoto did a lot of work on Power Rangers, and also the cult classic Mark Dacascos vehicle, featuring a young Britney Murphy, and the style here is fast and frenetic, with people being punched hard enough to fly into things. A lot. Credit both lead actresses for doing a good chunk of this themselves. Less successful, are just about all the other elements, led by the confusing plot, that appears to think whizzy SFX will remove any need for coherence. Admittedly, it’s not helped by subs, even the official DVD English ones, which are borderline illiterate, and on at least one occasion appear to contradict directly the on-screen action.

I was also more than a little uncomfortable with the apparently leering approach taken to the heroines. Chris, breezing through the living room, airily dismissed it with a roll of her eyes as “Oriental women in shorts,” (see the cover on the right for a good example). While part of me wanted to argue the point, the cheesecake quotient here was just too high for any credible defense: I mean, do you really need skimpy clothes for inter-dimensional travel? The final battle is kinda decent, but I’ll confess, my brain had largely given up on the entire exercise by that point, my attention only being somewhat regained whenever things e.g. fists or actresses started to fly. Sakamoto’s credentials as a fight choreographer are fine, just not in the director’s chair.

Dir: Koichi Sakamoto
Star: Nao Nagasawa, Ayumi Kinoshita, Yuko Takayama, Kenji Ebisawa