Zero Woman: Final Mission

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Probably the least accurate title of any film ever – at least Friday the 13th put out a few movies before using “final” – you definitely should begin here if you’re looking for much coherence. Rei (Iijima) is now partly employed as secretary to the head of Section Zero, but also takes out criminals for whom traditional channels of law enforcement aren’t enough, for one reason or another. She also pals around with Takako (Fukuoka), a detective from another section and a girl he helped bring out of delinquency, in what’s vaguely intimated as a love triangle. One night, they witness a hit and run, and discover the perpetrator (Suzuki) is the daughter of a powerful economic figure. Despite encountering official resistance, Rei and Takako persist with their investigation and, inevitably, this brings out more robust sanctions.

This does take some time to get going: it’s probably about 25 minutes before the car-micide in question, really kicks things off, and the film is more or less in a holding pattern until then. Still, Iijima certainly looks the part, and unlike some of the other occupants of the position, you don’t get the sense she got the role purely for her willingness to disrobe. Indeed, she manages even to take a shower and gun down an intruder without straying much beyond the boundaries of PG-13. Not that there’s exactly a shortage of nudity in this production, most of it coming from Suzuki, who is portrayed as being kinda depraved and heavily into S/M. Indeed, this seems the case for the director, as Rei spends a far too large chunk of the second half, tied up and being tormented by what can only be described as a cackling sex dwarf [literally half his lines must have been, “Bwahahahaha!”]. Quite what this says about Enokido’s predilections, is probably best glossed-over.

There’s a cool colour palette used here, mostly blues and grays, and a couple of scenes which will certainly stick in the mind. One is the previously mentioned shower-ambush, and the other is one where Rei is on the phone to Takako, when their conversation is rudely interrupted on his end: gradually, she realizes that something is very, very wrong. It’s expertly crafted, with good performances from both ends of the telephone line, and you can’t help wondering that more of this, rather than so much of the Laughing Gnome, would have elevated this to a classic. Instead, it’s merely hints at greatness, and settles for being solid and effective, starting the franchise in a way of which the original movie could only have dreamed.

Dir: Koji Enokido
Star: Naoko Iijima, Takako Fukuoka, Misayo Haruki, Miho Suzuki

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