Friday, 22 January 2010

Tokyo Gore Police (2008)

It only gets more messed up from here.

Tokyo Gore Police is the follow-up film from the dudes who brought us The Machine Girl, a gory romp about a schoolgirl with a machine gun for an arm. That film was pretty nuts, but this one kicks it in the dick. It has so much blood and gore it makes Ricky-Oh: The Story of Ricky look like A Triumph of the Heart: The Ricky Bell Story. It has so much queasy sexualisation and body horror it makes Cronenberg look like Spielberg. It has a futuristic dystopia so mean-spirited and cartoonish that Verhoeven would tell you to tone it down. I kind of liked it.

It takes place in the Tokyo... of the future!, where a newly privatised police force wear Samurai-inspired body armour and flood the airwaves with self-promotional PSAs. A special task force led by the sword-wielding Ruka (Eihi Shiina, from Takashi Miike's Audition) is hunting down a serial killer called the Key Man (Itsuji Itao), who uses specially cultured key-shaped tumours to unlock the "mutation potential" of the human body and turn ordinary people into "Engineers". These monsters have the ability to grow weird bio-mechanical weapons from the stumps of severed limbs. Amputate the arm of a chainsaw-wielding serial killer, for instance, and he might just grow an organic chainsaw out of his stump. As Ruka gets closer to the Key Man she finds they might just share a common link to their past and... zzzz... sorry, dozed off for a second there.

Okay, so maybe plot isn't this film's strong point. It's directed by Yoshihiro Nishimura, the makeup supervisor from The Machine Girl, and he is far more concerned with packing every frame with the red stuff. This is the kind of movie where wounds don't just squirt blood, they erupt like a volcano. In one scene Ruka cuts the arms off a pervert, pulls out an umbrella, and walks away in slow motion as the twin geysers of blood rain down on her. Reminds me of a video game, especially the bit where Ruka rocket jumps to the top of a skyscraper. One of the bad guys even uses the director's penchant for arterial blood sprays to his advantage, drinking a potion that causes the blood spraying from his severed leg stumps to increase in intensity until he is flying around on twin blood-jets.

One thing I definitely appreciated was that almost all the effects were done practically, with CG kept to a minimum. Sometimes the latex dummies are less than convincing, but they have a charm and a tangibility than you just can't get with ones and zeroes. It makes it that much more effective when someone gets a chainsaw to the face, drawn and quarted by some police cars or the myriad other ways people are mutilated or dismembered in this film. There's only one fight at the end that uses some less-than-perfect CG, but it's such a cool battle I'll let it slide.

Nishimura manages to come up with all sorts of creative and grotesque character designs for the Engineers. It's a rare film indeed that a prostitute in a schoolgirl uniform with a razor blade for an arm and acid-spraying boobs counts as one of the more mundane elements. There's a quadruple amputee in fetish gear that the police chief leads around like a dog. There's a woman who gets the bottom half of her torso severed and grows one hell of a vagina dentata. There's even a guy who gets his penis severed and grows an eight-foot, bullet proof penis cannon in it's place. Let's see your "herbal supplements" do that, spammers. One of my favourite parts was an extremely disturbing scene in a fetish club, where an audience applauds over successively freakish body mutations, culminating in a living chair made of flesh pissing all over them as they gasp in delight.

Despite all this craziness, the film feels a little less campy than The Machine Girl. In a nice Verhoeven-inspired touch, the movie is ocassionally interrupted for hilarious advertisements. These include anti-hara-kiri PSAs, a Wii-type family game where you murder serial killers with a sword and an ad for the police force that ends with small boys playing soccer with a severed head. My favourite one was an ad where a "kawaii" razor made specifically for self mutilation is marketed to teenage girls. They aren't a particularly original idea, but they are funny and go a long way in setting the tone of the movie.

Naturally this isn't a perfect movie. The plot is generic and pacing is way off. Exposition is dished out in dull, indigestible chunks and at 109 minutes it's a little overlong. Shiina, who I loved in Audition, is wasted here. I don't think she changes expression in the entire film. Still, it's a lot of fun as a portrait of a weird, wild dystopia and a catalogue of gory perversity. The ending promises a sequel with more gore and a girl with machine guns instead of limbs. I can't wait. I guess I've got a thing for amputees with gun-limbs.

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