Monday, 19 October 2015

Halloween 31 For 31: Tokyo Gore Police (2008)

Director: Yoshihiro Nishimura
Screenplay: Kengo Kaji, Maki Mizui and Yoshihiro Nishimura  
Cast: Eihi Shiina (as Ruka); Itsuji Itao (as Keyman); Yukihide Benny (as TOKYO POLICE Chief Officer); Jiji Bû (as Barabara-MAN); Ikuko Sawada (as Bar INDEPENDANT Owner); Cay Izumi (as Dog Girl)

Synopsis: In future Japan, the police are privatised and become a samurai armour, sword welding group whose adverts include criminals being killed onscreen to emphasis their efficiency. It's a world where to deter suicide the government has encouraged wrist cutting and a Wii-U like controller can be provided to victims' families to execute their loved one's murderer through their television screen. It's also a Japan plagued by Engineers, individuals who when they lose limbs have weapons and strange mutations immediately grow from the severed stump. Ruka (Shiina) is held in high esteem as a police officer whose main job is to kill these Engineers, an orphan raised by the police chief after her father was killed in front of her as a schoolgirl. The hunt for an Engineer who's responsible for a series of bizarre murders - entirely bloodless where the victims are cut-up and stored in a cardboard box at the crime scene - may reveal to her however who killed her father as much as cause her to question the police force she works for.

After the review of The ABCs of Death (2012), the opportunity to cover one of the films by directors who would form part of Sushi Typhoon  was worth it. But seeing Tokyo Gore Police again, I can see why I wasn't fond of this group of films in the first place. I used to have this particular one as one of the worse films I ever saw, but instead it's a ramshackle mess. Tokyo Gore Police has many good things about it. There are so many ideas thrown at the wall which are memorable and work, the attempts at satire in the vein of Robocop (1987), including the parody adverts the cut in between the story, are worthy to try, and the body horror and prosthetics are some of the strangest and gross you could see in this type of genre filmmaking. The type of filmmaking of this, of The Machine Girl (2008) and Yakuza Weapon (2011) is more than anything capable of creating bizarre images and gore effects if anything else, to make an entire feature length movie is an entirely different task in itself.

The premise itself allows for the best kind of body horror where there's no limit to the type of manipulations of the human form possible, the Engineers created when a tumour in the shape of a key is rubbed against a part of someone's anatomy and literally opens up the body part that it's against. are lost and weapons are grown in their place, nothing is sacred even in terms of making intimate organs into cannons and acidic breast milk that melts a person immediately. The obviousness of these prosthetic effects are done knowing of their falseness, but rather than irony or making them intentionally bad, the craft on show is suitably foam covered and exaggerated, the same mentality as with kaiju films where the prosthetics are taken for their limitations and used to their advantages. When the film is focused, the result is a twisted splatter sci-fi which plays in the same mentality of better filmmakers like Takashi Miike where conventional plot ideas are skewered into unconventional ones. Ridiculous amounts of fake blood is squirted out from hoses but the eccentricities are the most memorable aspects. The film hits its high point halfway through when a character goes to a fetish club, a heightened passage even compared to the rest of the film which more than likely cast real fetishists in the background and plays with the idea of the mutants, including a snail girl and a human chair, being hired as erotic performers for a community more than open to difference. Add to this some lunacy with a crocodile girl and penis mutilation, and its complete and utter lack of back taste is linked hand-in-hand with a kineticism that's infectious even if it's not for everyone.

The problem, and why Yoshihiro Nishimura's entry for The ABCs of Death with its severely restricted running time was seen as a progression for me, is that Tokyo Gore Police has no concept of organising itself into something cohesive to stretch over one hundred minutes. There's an attempt at a serious story with Ruku trying to investigate the conspiracy of her father's death, and while it's wonderful to see Eihi Shiina back on my TV screen after Audition (1999), she's out of place in a film more clearly concerned with the practical effects, one that ultimately forgoes this plot and throws it away. Every good moment is merely a disconnected segment, even the peak within the S&M club, with no ties to everything else when the film gets to its final act. After one last novel idea, where the truth if her father's death is illustrated to her with actual illustrations by the villain across a small longue table, the film takes nosedive. The finale completely abandons the good things that made revisiting Tokyo Gore Police rewarding, the director as co-writer with two other people shooting themselves in the foot when it merely becomes a series of gory set pieces, one after another, with no sense of pace to it, instead a series of nasty acts of gore violence that are not thrilling but a series of faked dismemberments that lack of charm or point. By that point it feels like test reel footage for the effects themselves rather than a greater shock. They also manage to start bungling the tone with what is, to paraphrase John Waters, bad examples of bad taste. I defended the misguided political humour in the director's short for The ABCs of Death, but a brief scene here with a stereotypical Chinese villain and a guy who appears to be in blackface, never brought up before in the first three-thirds of the movie, is so utterly stupid from the writers, the signpost for how poorly the film ends. By then it has no interest with its Engineers' plot, nor to try to take its serious plot sincerely, but merely a lack of a proper conclusion to itself.

Technical Details:
Tokyo Gore Police is very low budget, although I've seen lower budgeted Japanese genre films than this, which has a lot of editing and jump cuts, and many scenes taking place either in alley ways or basements. Undeniably the special effects team and the gore budget is used to its fullest advantage but it's also squandered as much as its used well, the film not lingering long enough on some ideas. The lack of narrative or the perfunctorily directorial style compromises what could've been done with said effects.

Abstract Spectrum: Grotesque/Psychotronic
Abstract Rating (High/Medium/Low/None): None
If this was just based on the practical effects and the aesthetic design, yes the film would be on the list. You have the Police Chief's pet/sex slave, a woman with no limbs who eventually gets to walk around on four samurai blades in the finale, to the aforementioned human chair which is as weird as it sounds. There's the advert promoting cute knifes for high school girls who want to cut their wrists to the fact the coroner decides to bring out a giant weapon which fires severed arms like missiles at people. There's plenty of things in this film that are the crème de la crème of unpredictable, but the problem is that the film alongside its ramshackle tone also straightjackets itself for the first half with its attempt at a narrative, lessening the unconventional material with a conventional plot. Also the look of the film is a problem, very pedestrian in how the film is actually made in comparison to its content, and without the short burst of insanity of the Japanese entries of The ABCs of Death, the content in this feature length film are neutered as a result.

Personal Opinion:
I had a lot more of interest to get from Tokyo Gore Police, but it's been enforced that a film like this cannot stand up to cult film directors from Japan like Miike or Shinya Tsukamoto who can combine the transgression with more artistry. Even as it is, one could've imagined this as an old Toho genre film in style with a lot more gore and transgression alongside the men in rubber suits, but there's a lack of consistency in the content that, when it reached the end, all I felt was numbed disappointment. 

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