Cinema Epoch // 2008 // 73 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge William Lee (Retired) // April 29th, 2010
She's back with a vengeance!
Zero Woman is a long-running series of Japanese action movies featuring a recurring character that has been played by a multitude of actresses over the years. You could think of Zero Woman as a collision of La Femme Nikita and Emmanuelle. I don't know for certain if this is an official entry in the series -- at the time of writing this review, the title isn't listed on IMDb -- but if naked women and bloody violence are the standards for the franchise, Zero Woman R should appeal to the established fan base. For everyone else, here are 73 minutes of marginal action and acting waiting to be made fun of.
Recruited as an orphan and trained as an assassin, Rei (Atsuko Miura) works for a secret branch of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police called Zero Section. The branch handles cases that can't be handled by conventional policing methods. For example, this is how they bust a gang: Rei goes undercover as an inmate in a women's jail, forms a lesbian relationship with the gang's leader, kills a guard to make their escape, then shoots dead the leader and her underlings. Perhaps not the most efficient way to uphold the law but results are still results.
Demoted police detective Hayami (Masaki Miura) meets Rei in the aftermath of a shooting. Though he's never heard of Zero Section, he takes her word for it when she explains why she's just killed a bunch of people. Hayami, the son of a cop, is a pacifist. "You are not familiar with shooting people with your hands," Rei knowingly tells him. The script would suggest that these two are drawn to each other despite their very different approaches to police work. Rei expresses her conflicted emotions for Hayami in tortured dialogue: "Do you enjoy disturbing me? You didn't disturb me. Don't disturb me right now." It's a complicated relationship that can accurately be described as two actors in a scene at the same time.
The case that has Hayami and Rei crossing paths involves assassinated Japanese industrialists, American army architecture, extreme nationalists and a priest. Throw in a couple of meddling government bureaucrats for good measure. Go ahead, string those elements together for a plot. Whatever you can think of will make more sense than what you're going to see on screen.
Another key character is a woman named Yuki (Sasa Hanada) who is on a killing spree. She may be working for someone or she may be on a personal mission. There's an expectation that she is on course for a showdown with Rei but their storylines don't easily connect. Yuki gets naked a lot too so it's hard to hold a grudge.
Zero Woman R appears to be both cheaply made and badly made. The cinematography is competent but it has a bland, lifeless look as if not much effort was put toward art direction. Sets look like they were simply found and used -- and used again from a slightly different angle. The rentals of a hot sports car and flashy motorcycle may have been the film's budget. There is some gunplay but the scenes are deliberately framed to avoid showing flashes and impacts. The hand-to-hand fight scenes are poorly staged with minimal choreography and even less effort on the part of the performers. One sword fight between Rei and a bad guy starts in daylight and ends at night even though they trade just a couple of blows.
Interested viewers should not rent this movie for the story, nor for the action. What about the nudity, then? Even if they don't demonstrate even passable acting skills, the two actresses are very pretty and they both get naked for extended softcore sex scenes. Aside from the shock of the lesbian scene that opens the movie, however, the ample skin time is pretty uninteresting. This is partly due to the passionless, almost mechanical performances. The other problem is that a lot of the film's dialogue is re-recorded in the studio so the moaning we hear doesn't quite match the action we see so the illusion of an intimate moment is compromised.
The disc is just as disappointing on the technical side. The image is clean of flecks and physical debris but the picture is soft. The video is presented non-anamorphic in a letterboxed widescreen format. The dialogue is consistently easy to hear, owing to the studio re-record, but lines are sometimes out of sync with the actors' lips. Of course, most of the dialogue is heard when the actors are in wide shot or facing away from the camera. It probably doesn't matter too much anyway if you're relying on the subtitles. But the poorly translated subtitles are no help to making sense of the story which can make the viewing experience annoying or amusing depending on your mood.
It's better than a zero, but still guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Cinema Epoch
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 73 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Stills Gallery
* Wikipedia: Zero Woman