Thursday, 4 September 2008

Wild Zero (2000)

Warning: Watching this film may cause you to shout
"ROCK AND ROLL!!!" at every opportunity

Guitar Wolf is a three-piece Japanese punk band consisting of three members. They go by the names Guitar Wolf, Drum Wolf and Bass Wolf.  This film is their story. Sadly, in 2005 bassist Billy died from a heart attack at age 38, so I am going to capitalise every instance of the phrase "ROCK AND ROLL" in his honour. This is actually the second film to star the band, the first being a weird sci-fi exploitation film named The Sore Losers (not to be confused with the Billy Jack film The Born Losers) where they played the "Mysterious Strangers". In Wild Zero, by one-time writer/director Tetsuo Takeuchi, they play themselves and according to interviews with the band itself it's a true-to-life documentary of their exploits. Good enough for me. And now, it's time to ROCK AND ROLL!!

Ace is the number one fan of Guitar Wolf and, after lovingly combing his massive 50s pompadour, he jumps onto his tiny motorbike and heads off to see their latest gig. After watching their performance in starry-eyed admiration, he is imbued with power of ROCK AND ROLL and bursts into the manager's office so he can try out for a gig of his own. Unfortunately this ain't American Idol, and he bursts right into a gun point confrontation between the manager and Guitar Wolf. The manager is known as the Captain, and he is a weird fat perv with a pageboy haircut and a fondness for drugs, beating up women and, worst of all, shiny booty shorts. He has decided to dump Guitar Wolf for a more profitable J-pop act, claiming that ROCK AND ROLL is dead. Of course, this blasphemy can't stand, and it triggers a gun fight that results in fingers blown off and exploded heads. The band escapes, but before they do Guitar Wolf annoints Ace as a "ROCK AND ROLL blood brother" and gives him a little whistle that he can use to call them whenever he is in trouble. Wow, just like Jimmy Olsen!  It'll probably come in handy too, because what none of them know is that a zombie plague is beginning to spread nearby.  Maybe it has something to do with all of the UFOs flying about?

We now leave Guitar Wolf for a while, and unfortunately whenever they're off screen the movie starts to lose it. We first meet a trio of morons, who are driving cross country so they can see a meteorite that has recently landed. A couple's constant bickering, combined with their complete lack of money, drives the other to rob the nearest petrol station with a couple of butterfly knives. If this was the USA he'd probably be laughed at and/or shot, but this is Japan, so the attendant freezes in terror and a female customer passes out from fright. The robbery is accidentally foiled by Ace and the would-be robber escapes.  Ace then helps revive the unconscious customer, who introduces herself as Tobio.  Ace is smitten, as helpfully indicated by the cheesy music and heart-shaped framing effect. While on his way to Guitar Wolf's next gig he stumbles across a bunch of zombies and is visited by a vision of Guitar Wolf himself, ordering Ace to go back for Tobio.

It's only later, when the two of them are sealed in a building with hungry zombies outside, that Tobio reveals her "surprise", which is of a Crying Game/Sleepaway Camp nature, by which I mean that Tobio has a penis. Possibly testicles as well. Ace flees in panic, leaving Tobio to fend for herself against the zombies, but he is once again visited by the spirit of Guitar Wolf, who insists that "love has no genders or borders." This might be the only film where the spirit of a punk rocker convinces someone to have sex with a tranny.  Unless there was a scene I missed in Ghost.  Anyway, Guitar Wolf isn't about to abandon his ROCK AND ROLL blood brother and eventually they all join forces, along with two of the would-be robbers from earlier (the third having since become lunch for the undead).

While all of this is going on we are also introduced to an illegal arms dealer who is waiting in the desert to meet a couple of Yakuza guys. What she doesn't know is that they've been consumed by zombies, and it's only when she's back at home in the shower (naturally) that she's attacked by a bunch of the undead buggers. Luckily she keeps a pistol nearby, and a few exploded zombie heads later she dons a truly bizarre Burberry one-piece, jumps into her APC and tears ass out of there. She eventually meets up with the rest of the group and decides to help them out when Guitar Wolf convinces her that the zombies are full of gold balls. She's pretty gullible, I guess.

Back at the club, the Captain is in the middle of auditioning a J-Pop act straight out of my worst nightmares when he receives news of Guitar Wolf's location. Swearing revenge for his missing fingers, he loads up his car with guns and heads out to find them. The final battle between Guitar Wolf and the Captain starts to go poorly when the Captain inexplicably gains the superpower to shoot lighting out of his eyes, but the rest of the gang manage to blow him up with a rocket launcher.  There's also a bit where Guitar Wolf leaps out an exploding building, shouting "ROCK AND ROLL!!" as he plays a throbbing power chord, then as soon as he hits the ground he tunes his guitar.  Coolest guy ever.  Then Guitar Wolf pulls a hidden samurai sword out of his guitar and cuts the UFO mothership in half. So yeah, this is probably the best music documentary I've seen. You can keep your copy of Don't Look Back. Did that have electrified guitar picks, flaming microphones, zombies, transsexuals and rocket launchers? I don't know because I didn't see it, but I doubt it.

Despite the fact that the film is packed with awesome stuff, it's not a total slam dunk. The stretch in the middle where Guitar Wolf are absent tends to drag a little, and the editing and pacing is all pretty amateurish. Some of the characters are redundant and/or unbearable. Obviously, music plays a big role in the film and most of it can be found on their seventh album, Jet Generation. The record label claims it is the loudest CD in music history (exceeding the theoretical maximum volume limits of CD audio) and a sticker warns that it may damage your stereo equipment. Okay, so the music sounds like boiled ass played through a tin can, but Guitar Wolf rocks. Hard. They are the first to admit that their guitar work isn't fantastic (it's generally three chord progressions, played poorly) but they have an incredible energy. Also microphones that shoot flames. Like the movie, the band compensates for their glaring faults with a manic energy, buckets of style and a huge dose of ROCK AND ROLL!!

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