Director: Norihisa Yoshimura
Starring: Mikiyo Ono, Reina Tanaka, Kou Watanabe
This direct to video release is the 5th entry in the Zero Woman franchise, one of the better known and certainly most prolific in the abundant Japanese Girls with Guns genre. The basic storyline will be familiar to anyone who has seen the various incarnations of Nikita - attractive female assassin is forced into making contract kills by a shadow organisation that controls her. In this case, she's named Rei, and the organisation running her is "Zero Force".
Being the 5th in the series, viewers would be well advised not to expect anything original. And being a direct to video release, not to expect anything great. With expectations suitably adjusted ...
The movie starts with Rei swimming in a public pool alongside some big shot gang boss - judging by the gun-toting heavies prowling poolside.
Barely two minutes into the flick you are asked to suspend disbelief as our sub 100-pound heroine overpowers her much larger male target - underwater, and without any of his bodyguards noticing. While exiting the pool, the bodyguards clue in to what's happened and a gunfight ensues. Everyone misses her of course, but Rei ALWAYS gets her man, even when she's visibly pointing the gun in the wrong direction. Amazing. I do wonder where she was hiding that gun though.
Fade out. Title sequence. Costume change.
Rei's wearing a sexy black cocktail dress, covertly making her way through the hallway of a swanky apartment. Despite being a highly trained assassin with superheroic skills, she inexplicably chooses to inch BACKWARDS into an unseen room, which I'm fairly sure is not best practice.
Consequently a supersized wrestler/ bodyguard grabs her from behind and hoists her above his head WWF style, then CHUCKS her about 10 feet onto some wooden stairs. This is actually quite realistic and looks like a painful stunt for the poor schmuck who had to wear a dress and perform it. A fight ensues with each seemingly beaten until a shock resurrection turns the tables. Twice.
By now you can probably tell that the action sequences reside somewhere in the vicinity of "Average to Lame". But rest assured that Rei's wardrobe is convincingly killer, even if her technique is not. Which is to say that of the phrase "attractive female assasssin" - the first two words are best served here.
Later, she returns home to light some incense and take her clothes off. She adds coloured marbles to a goldfish bowl representing each of her day's kills. After the frenetic action of the opening 8 minutes, the movie starts to develop her character with segues into nightmares and flashbacks. She's a kid again, her sister is being abused. Her sister has a scar just like the scar on her day-spa masseuse! Mysterious connections are made.
Rei hooks up with a guy at the local restaurant, and a love interest develops. Things are looking up for her tormented soul. But can she escape the clutches of Zero Force and find true love?
This is my first foray into the franchise, so I'm certainly missing some important backstory and can't compare it to previous films in the series. The movie on its own works well enough, though formulaic. Despite an obviously low budget. it often looks good, in no small part due to the appeal of lead actress Mikiyo Ono who is a real cutie.
The inattention to realism in the action scenes is somewhat jarring and often laughable, firmly placing this in b-grade territory. The soundtrack is pretty good if you like instrumental rock guitar.
Rating: 4.5/10. Worthwhile for fans of the series or those who like watching hot chicks killing people. Even so, an average entry in the genre.
For better examples, check out Masaru Konuma's XX: Beautiful Hunter, or Takashi Ishii's Black Angel