Gun Woman Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Written and directed by Kurando Mitsutake
2014, Region A, 86 minutes, Not rated
Blu-ray released on May 26th, 2015
Asami as Mayumi
Kairi Narita as Mastermind
Noriaki Kamata as Hamazaki’s son
Matthew Miller as Assassin
Dean Simone as Driver
Tatsuya Nakadai as Mr. Hamazaki
Lauren Lakis as Abducted woman
The son of legendary Japanese crime boss Hamazaki is nothing like his father, in that he is a reckless sociopath who revels in debauchery. He breaks more laws before breakfast than most men do all day. He defiles women (both living and dead), abuses drugs and is prone to unprovoked outbursts of extreme violence. A wretch like this is likely to gather enemies, so he remains surrounded by bodyguards at all times. One of his previous victims, a man now known only as Mastermind, has devised an elaborate plot for revenge. Having had his previous life stolen by the young crime lord, this mysterious stranger has found a way to deliver private justice to the wicked. His plan begins with the purchase of a young drug addict that he will run through a strict detox program, followed by intense physical conditioning and fight training. The woman will have to get close to the intended target in order to strike and Mastermind has discovered the perfect opportunity.
Gun Woman, written and directed by Kurando Mitsutake (Samurai Avenger), is a surprisingly entertaining thriller that introduces a few new elements into the familiar narrative, making it a worthy addition to the bleak subgenre of vengeance films. This picture greatly resembles The Black Cat, Hong Kong’s spin on the French classic La Femme Nikita, in which a hopeless junkie is given a fresh start as a trained assassin due to her unprecedented skills and complete anonymity. Mitsutake’s take on the material contains a unique twist I will not spoil here, but suffice it to say, it is pretty dark. The film moves at a deliberate pace as Mayumi, the titular gun woman, undergoes extensive conditioning presented to audiences in a series of rousing training montages that rival those found in Rocky IV, complete with rockin’ guitar riffs. Mastermind trains her to fight, how to handle pain and how to both fire a gun and face one without panic, as she will likely have to rely on all of these skills in order to survive. He promises Mayumi that she will be granted total freedom upon successfully completing the assignment.
Asami (Machine Girl) stars as Mayumi, the unlikely heroine on heroin (or some equally detrimental substance.) The majority of the film follows her intense physical conditioning and once she is finally set into action in the final act, she is awesome. Her performance is even more impressive when you realize that she speaks only one line of dialogue in the entire movie and her climactic battle is fought while completely nude. Kairi Narita (Genghis Khan) is tough but fair as Mastermind, the revenge-obsessed loner. He is hard on Mayumi, but not sadistically abusive as he teaches her the tactics she needs in order to survive a completely foreign lifestyle. Part of Mayumi’s training involves the assistance of an abducted woman (Lauren Lakis, The House with 100 Eyes) who helps our heroine remain focused during a crisis. These scenes are easily some of the most intense, yet the two women never make physical contact. Noriaki Kamata is spectacularly over-the-top as the psychotic antagonist. Genre fans will be pleased by an appearance from legendary actor Tatsuya Nakadai (Ran), the frequent Kurosawa collaborator, who is briefly glimpsed as the elder crime boss, Mr. Hamazaki.
Where the film falters is in stepping outside the formula to focus on an unnecessary framing device involving a hitman (Matthew Miller) and his driver (Dean Simone) discussing the details of this story. Rather than allowing the piece to play out in a natural fashion, things are constantly interrupted in order to listen to two unrelated characters babble on about things we have either just seen or are about to. Their subplot comes to a predictable end that is neither satisfying nor practical. The running time is short, but I would rather Mitsutake had spent more time expanding the role of a relevant character (possibly the villain) rather than pad things with these two chatty schmucks. Luckily, the rest of Gun Woman is strong enough to survive this shortcoming and I can still recommend the picture if for nothing else than to watch the beautiful and talented Asumi kick a whole lot of ass in the final reel.
Video and Audio:
Presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the digitally-shot feature has a strong transfer that has been deliberately manipulated to distress certain aspects of the video elements. Colors are somewhat muted until they are elevated for visual effect and contrast levels are similarly fluid. Cinematographer Toshiyuki Imai has an accomplished eye and the finished product displays a confidence that makes me eager to see more work from him in the future.
The default DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix is the way to go here, as there is a nice balance of music and sound effects spread across all speakers. Dialogue remains clean and free from distortion while gunshots echo loudly both in the training environment and during the violent climax. A DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track is also available for anyone so inclined.
Dialogue in Gun Woman is spoken in both English and Japanese, and features English subtitles where necessary. A second English subtitle track for the entire film is provided for the hearing impaired.
There are two audio commentary tracks, and the first pairs the director and star for an engaging discussion of how each approached their part in making the film. The conversation is in Japanese and English subtitles are provided for anyone in need. Mitsutake returns for a solo recording, in English this time, and provides a more detailed account of the film’s production.
The generically titled Making of Gun Woman (48 minutes) is a surprisingly thorough behind-the-scenes look at the work that goes into shooting a low-budget feature. There is a lot of nice material here and in addition to the expected talking head cast interview, we get a generous amount of footage shot on set during production.
A collection of promotional trailers for Gun Woman concludes the special features on this disc.
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