“The middle word in the title is easily the most applicable. Far and away.”
In the near-future, Japan is plagued by “engineers” – criminals who have voluntarily undergone genetic modifications, which not only mutate their bodies in bizarre ways, but give them near superpowers and the ability to sprout weapons from their wounds. To combat this, the privatized Japanese police force under their chief (Benny) has an absolutely no-holds barred policy of shoot first, ask questions… Well, don’t bother asking questions. Their top “engineer hunter” is Ruka (Shiina, whom you may recognize from Audition), the daughter of a police officer who was killed in the line of duty while she was just a young girl. She is tracking down the scientist behind the engineers, known as “Key Man” (Itao) because of the key-shaped tumours which trigger the mutations. But when they meet, he infects her – and also reveals the truth behind the deaths of both their fathers.
The most obvious parallel would by Robocop, not only in the cautionary tale of law-enforcement run for profit, but also the sardonic commercials which pepper proceeding, showing how brutal society has become [here’s an example, for a wrist-cutting knife]. It’s against this backdrop that the cold, to the point of being emotionally-dead, heroine plies her trade, troubled by a past that she can’t forget. Shiina is certainly good at that kind of role, but it’s more or less a one-note performance, that doesn’t provide much reason for the audience to empathize with her. However, I get the sense that, as far as director Nishimura is concerned, characterization is probably not quite the main thing he’s concerned with here.
That would, instead, be the splatter, which goes to a whole new level, even by the outrageous standards of the genre. The arterial spray is so copious and powerful that, at one point, an engineer uses it to propel himself about, like a haemoglobin propelled jet-pack. That pretty much sums up the tone to be found here, with body parts also flying when not attached to their owners. It’s arguably the goriest movie ever made, though I’d have to re-watch Peter Jackson’s Brain Dead before I can be certain on this front. However, there isn’t quite enough to sustain it, especially at a fairly extended running-time of 110 minutes. While there no shortage of surreal imagination on view (like the creature which has had all four limbs replaced with samurai swords), and it’s undeniably the most OTT of its siblings, this probably works better as a party tape, playing in the background for your next Halloween bash, given its apparent apathy towards more conventional cinematic attributes.
Dir: Yoshihiro Nishimura
Star: Eihi Shiina, Itsuji Itao, Yukihide Benny, Shoko Nakahara