XX: Beautiful Hunter

Japan, 1994
Original title: XX: Utsukushiki karyuudo

Director: Masaru Konuma
Starring: Makiko Kuno, Koji Shimizu, Johnny Okura, Katsuo Tokashi
IMDB: 4.5

In a culture where women are traditionally demure and reserved, its surprising how many Japanese movies feature strong-willed women kicking ass! This lethality combined with femininity is a potent combination, and perhaps goes some way to explaining the increasing popularity of Japanese exploitation.

The rampant nudity doesn't hurt either, of course ... something notably missing from most Hollywood action flicks (which is kinda strange given that males must surely be the target audience). But that's another story ... here we have a Japanese exploitation flick that ticks all the right boxes for its intended audience. And what might that be? Well, take a closer look at the DVD cover above...

Masaru Konuma was a prolific director of Pinku films in the 1970s, including titles such as (the original) Flower & Snake, and Wife to be Sacrificed, often with an S&M theme and highly sexualized. This direct-to-video action film from 1994, towards the end of the director's career, retains a sexy and perverse aesthetic that will be of interest to genre fans, and in particular Girls with Guns aficionados.

The film opens inside a convent, where the young orphan Shion is forced to execute a man at the prompting of the Father (Koji Shimizu) - part of her training to become a Holy Warrior. Exactly what the Holy Warriors are supposed to be fighting for or against, is never really explained - although the Father's modus operandi seems closer to the Yakuza than the Holy Roman Church, perhaps indicating that the church is itself little more than a Yakuza front.



Cut to 10 years later, and Shion (Makiko Kuno) has grown up. The director's method of visually portraying this fact is the epitome of elegant simplicity ... the gratuitous boob shot! And we only had to wait 4 mins and 43 seconds.



She is now the group's most accomplished assassin, and it's during one of her jobs that photographer Ito (Johnny Okura) secretly captures her on film executing one of his colleagues. Shion quickly realizes the threat he poses and hunts him down intending to kill him. However, a chance remark from Ito exposes the vulnerable and needy side of the young woman ... she has never had a boyfriend. And she's horny!

Ito-san is a smooth dude with a penchant for white suits, and while kneeling at her feet begging for his life, he manages to save himself through the remarkable technique of ripping her clothes off and administering a little oral gratification! Poor Shion is in two minds ... she knows she needs to kill him, and her boss is insisting upon it ... and yet it seems she has fallen in love.



On returning home her mind wanders back to Ito as she proceeds to masturbate with her gun. While this may seem like a cheap and gratuitous excuse to show more nudity, this subtle scene actually contains many shades of allegorical meaning that poignantly foreshadow Shion's change of heart.

In addition to being a cheap and gratuitous excuse to show more nudity!




However, as previously foreshadowed, Shion decides to follow her heart and goes on the run with Ito to escape her boss. Said boss however, is not likely to let her off that easy.

If you thought the film was freaky enough up to this point, well that's just the first half hour. What follows are more killings, more sex, more nudity, and some fairly exploitative S&M-based torture featuring foreign objects and the indiscriminate placement thereof.





All in all its a good time. Which is not to say that its a great film. Other reviewers have noted that without the beautiful Makiko Kuno in the title role, the film has little to offer. Admittedly, Makiko is a total sex-bomb and is often naked - elevating the film considerably with her looks alone.

But to say that the film would suck without her, would be equally unfair. This is a competent action flick - while not overly deep, how many action flicks are? It also features some creative photography - with certain scenes featuring fantastic Girls with Guns imagery.

 

On the downside, its quickly apparent that this is a film from the 80s, despite being made in 1994. The music, the clothes, the hair - all seem quite dated. But give yourself 15 minutes to settle into the groove and you won't really be noticing.


6.5/10

More screenshots (click to enlarge)

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good review. I'm in. Now to find it.
Thanx

Ninjasound

Anonymous said...

Thanks, good review! I liked it -- actually liked it better the second time through. That lead actress really started to grow on me. She's quite the fantasy Asian babe. I love her! Also would like to comment that if you listen to the DVD with the English soundtrack setting, then listen again with the Japanese, you will hear two distinct soundtracks - i.e. different music, different background noises, etc. I would recommend using the Japanese soundtrack. If you don't understand Japanese, you will then have to read the subtitles, of course, but the music and background noises are better and make more sense - like the part where she shoots open the locker: in the Japanese soundtrack, it's clear that her gunshot is muffled by a passing train, which allows her to do it without drawing attention. In the English soundtrack, this is not the case. Try it, you'll see what I mean.

TWISTED FLICKS said...

Hey there, thanks for stopping in. Interesting about the soundtrack - I always prefer to watch in the original language if possible though. I find dubbing just too distracting.

Makiko Kuno is certainly very beautiful. You've reminded me I need to check out some of her other movies. I see she was in an early Takashi Miike flick ... now to track it down!

Systematicer said...

I watched this because of your review. Well, mostly because of the screenshots and because your review was positive enough overall.

It's pure male fantasy. Average male comes upon attractive, young, female, ruthless killer. When she's about to kill him he makes her fall in love with him through his ability to give her sexual pleasure the likes she has never experienced before. Later she's tortured in a scene of sweaty lesbian violence and he saves the damsel in distress. He dies in the moment of his greatest happiness (having found the love of his life and having just had sex with her) and she lives on to probably give the next guy unparallelled sexual pleasure.

'XX: Beautiful Hunter' seems more concerned with creating interestingly framed and lit shots than with anything else, which really makes the film work better in stills than it actually does in motion. I guess it's a pretty decent film considering its poor writing and its evidently very low production values. After a rocky start I unexpectedly got sort of into it during the second half, which plays up its operatic qualities and focuses more on the assassin (and on close-ups of her).

I also found half #2 to be considerably more visually appealing. I'm a total sucker for that rich-colored look of 90s B-movies with their red, blue and green lighting even if the novelty is gradually wearing off for me. There are also some semi-inspired moments such as the young girl literally losing her virginity when she makes her first kill (with her hymen apparently breaking as she fires the gun), and the other perfect union of sex and violence when she masturbates with her Desert Eagle pistol, which could have been pretty amazing moments in a better film. And of course there's also the inexperienced-assassin-swayed-by-oral-pleasure scene that you described so well. So overall your review is pretty spot-on.

TWISTED FLICKS said...

Thanks for your comments ... I agree with you. It's definitely a male-fantasy in a most unrealistic way - but that's pretty common with Japanese exploitation films. While not porn, they certainly share the same misogynistic underlying philosophy, and are firmly targeted at a male demographic.

But you certainly shouldnt go into this movie expecting something of intellectual, or even filmic quality. What it is, is a Girls With Guns/ exploitation genre piece. As such, it pretty much delivers on the key aspects for this type of film - 1) twisted exploitational elements (the torture scene), and 2) A good-looking heroine (which Makiko Kuno definitely delivers in spades).

What qualities of the script or cinematography there are - given that none would usually be expected - elevate it beyond the average. The fact it makes any attempt at all to include symbolism or meaning for example, is surely rare for this type of film.

Plus I admit to being partial to the Japanese Girls with Guns genre - of which more reviews to come soon!

Systematicer said...

I don't think it's really fair to say that Japanese exploitation films can't fully deliver without having misogynist undertones even if they are mostly targeted at a male demographic. Take for example the films with Meiko Kaji (Lady Snowblood and Joshuu Sasori), they have all the "goods", from women in prison, blood, violence, sex and chicks with weapons, but they could probably pass for supporting female empowerment.

TWISTED FLICKS said...

For sure - of course I didnt mean to imply that they all did - just that it was common. Especially with the films I watch, as I actively seek them out :)

But its an interesting dichotomy of many of these films - that theres female empowerment, (in this film too - the lead character is an ass-kicking female after all), but also male-fantasy aspects. Both of which I enjoy hugely, and probably the major factor in their appeal for me.

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