Well Go Usa // 2010 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // May 21st, 2012
Unleash the Freaks!
Japan (like most countries) has a lot of cultural baggage to work through. Unlike other countries, they're the only nation to have a hostile atomic weapon detonated on their soil. This has led, over the years, to a rash of films based on the ideas of mutation, the most famous being Gojira. However, there are only so many things you can do with a giant mutated lizard, and only so many times you can destroy Tokyo before audiences look for something a little bit different. Reworking tropes from a number of different genres (including mutation flicks, but also post-apocalyptic films and schoolgirl action flicks), Mutant Girls Squad gives fans a dash of something new in a tried-and-true recipe for success through excess. Though it won't be for everyone's taste, Well Go USA offers fans of Japanese oddities the perfect flick.
Rin (Yumi Sugimoto) is a 16-year-old girl who comes home one day to find out that she's a mutant who grows a claw out of her arms. Not only that, but her parents are mutants, too. Then, her parents are murdered in front of her. This puts her on the run, where she is taken in by another group of mutants who must battle an evil general who controls the anti-mutant forces within the government.
Many Japanese films have a reputation by the time they get to America. Partly because they're different from our domestic offerings and partly because they were (and still sometimes are) hard to come by. I remember well the furor over films like Battle Royale and Versus in the early days of DVD because these hyper-violent films weren't really available in the U.S. Because savvy marketers know that Japanese films have this reputation and the films can be harder to come by, many films since those flicks have been marketed solely on how crazy and/or violent they are. Though many films have earned these kinds of reputations, more often than not I've been disappointed by the levels of violence and/or insanity. Thankfully, Mutant Girls Squad lives up to the hype.
The craziest thing about Mutant Girls Squad for me is the fact that it's an anthology film. Most anthology films are only tangentially or thematically related. This, however, is told in chapters, with three different directors taking on each chapter. The directors responsible for Mutant Girls Squad have brought us films like Machine Girl (Noboru Iguch), Tokyo Gore Police (Yoshihiro Nishimura), and Versus (Tak Sakaguchi). Which leads us to two significant points: 1) You'd never believe this was an anthology film by watching it, since the three pieces interweave perfectly, the visual styles mesh, and are well-paced; and 2) The sum of the directors is greater than their parts, as I enjoyed Mutant Girls Squad more than any of their solo work.
What else is crazy about Mutant Girls Squad? Well, we're talking about a young woman with a claw for a hand and another with a tentacle. There's comic book violence and gore galore, and visually the film has a kind of funhouse apocalypse look to it. Many people have favorably compared the film to flicks like Dead Alive or Evil Dead II. It's the perfect combination of horror plot, gross-out comedy, and inspired visual insanity.
That insanity is ported straight over to Mutant Girls Squad (Blu-ray). Apparently shot on HD video, this 1.78:1 AVC-encoded transfer shows an impressive amount of detail (too much, perhaps, for those who want their gore effects ultra-realistic). Colors are all over the map because of post-production decisions, but all of the colors are well-saturated and skin tones are surprisingly consistent. Black levels are fine, though the image does lack depth, especially in darker scenes. I honestly can't tell you if the DTS-HD 5.1 track is a good one or not. I can say that it's clear and it's loud, but beyond that it's almost too much to take in. Dialogue is clean and clear as expected from the center channel, but there's always something going in the other speakers to distract the listener. We get sonic pans and low end booms along with a number of insane sound effects. I don't know if that makes it technically good or not, but the track suits the film perfectly.
Extras start with 30 minutes of footage from the film's premiere in Tokyo as we watch the festivities (including the red carpet and the party afterward). It didn't do much for me, but fans of Japanese celebrity culture might find more to enjoy here. More interesting for me were the 30 minutes of interviews with the cast and directors. Each is interviewed separately and can be accessed individually. They all return for the 30-minute making-of featurette that starts with behind-the-scenes footage before giving us more interview material and clips from the film. Finally, there's a "spinoff" film called "Yoshi Zero" that includes some more action and a musical number. A second disc includes a DVD version of the film (I would guess the same disc previously released) and it has all the extras from the Blu-ray on it, which is a nice touch.
Mutant Girls Squad is utterly, almost painfully, ridiculous. We're talking about a movie where a mutation is to have overly large breasts with samurai swords instead of nipples. If that idea makes you crack a smile, then Mutant Girls Squad is probably for you. If that just sounds too bizarre or stupid, this is obviously not a flick to track down. Even those willing to look past some of the weirder plot elements might be turned off by the film's look, which is decidedly cheap (and in the case of some of the CGI, amateurish).
Mutant Girls Squad pretty much delivers on the promise of its premise, a bunch of weirdly mutated girls forming a squad to stop a bad guy. Along the way a bunch of blood is spilled and lots of violence perpetrated. If that's your thing, this Blu-ray offers the flick in a solid presentation with decent extras. Fans of the directors' other work will want to at least give this one a rental, and it's not a bad place for the curious to jump into the weird subgenre of Japanese schoolgirl splatter.
Not guilty, if mutant girls are your thing.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Well Go Usa
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (Japanese)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Short Film