Zero Woman 5: The Hunted

Original title: Zero woman: Kesenai kioku
Japan, 1997
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


Systematicer said...

I hope you didn't die or something, you need to go back to reviewing some flicks. Are you anywhere else present on the net where you are discussing films?


No this is the only place I discuss films online. But been too busy with another venture to do any reviews lately, although I have a bunch of half-finished ones:) my favorite movies in the last few years have been Sion Sono's Cold Fish and Guilty of Romance - will review those soon. His new one, Why don't you play in Hell , is in theatres next week here in Japan actually. (I'm here on holiday right now). It looks like a return to form for him after his last few 'saner' films;) Have you got yourself a blog yet? I recall you're on imdb a bit. Anywhere else?

Systematicer said...

Make sure to check out the 'Cold Fish' review on your blog before you write another one, or is that the half-finished one? I think I mentioned before that I didn't care much for 'Cold Fish'. But 'Guilty of Romance' is a favorite.

So I caught you in Japan. That's cool. Wouldn't mind going there either some day, especially now that I watch more Japanese films than ever. The most recent Japanese things I watched and loved were Kuroneko, The Naked Island, The Face of Another and Azumanga daiô (anime), all in the last few days. And if I go back a bit further: Only Yesterday, Twilight of the Dark Master, Garden of Words, Late Spring, The Sword of Doom, A Letter to Momo, Noriko's Dinner Table. So mainly classics and slice-of-life anime are doing it for me.

I don't have a blog, I'm pretty much just on IMDb and on a little private forum ( I'm using a different username now, though.


ok I may check that board out when i get home. You should start a blog sometime though - you've got good insights and of course great taste in movies:)

I haven't seen a great deal of classic jp movies yet, been working my way through 1970s to 1990s for the most part. But there's so many!

Systematicer said...

Everyone has a blog nowadays. I'm doing fine without my voice being heard "by the world" and the world also does fine enough without my voice being heard. It's also so much work...

Just to clarify, I use the word classic in the sense of critically acclaimed films, usually from well-established directors, the kinds you would find on the TSPDT list, rather than in the "just any old film" sense. Although funnily that list has actually missed the boat on almost all the films that I mentioned earlier, but I think it will catch up on some of them.

Having loved 'Kuroneko' and 'The Naked Island' I just went through Kaneto Shindô's filmography to see what to watch next and when I saw the title 'Edo Porn' I knew that I had seen that title before somewhere. Of course your blog was the answer. And it was the answer to my "what next" question as well.


Yeah its a lot of work, but there are so many great unknown films its good to get them out there. Especially the many Japanese films, most of which are yet to see a proper english friendly release.

But to be honest I mostly do it for myself. my memory can't hold all the films I've seen so its nice to jog the memory:)

Nevertheless, the 'twisted flicks' I review are almost always ignored by critics - even though in my opinion they might be classics of their genre!

well I hope you enjoy edo porn, it certainly has its moments

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