Judge David Johnson is full of wanderlust. Look it up.
Great title! Until you realize the bulk of this movie is watching her gamble.
The follow-up to the original Wandering Ginza Butterfly employs the same formula as its predecessor: lots and lots of dialogue capped with killer swordfight.
Facts of the Case
When last we saw pool-hustler/sword-swinger Nami (Meiko Kaji), she was single-handedly laying waste to the Yakuza with her billiards ability, and, eventually, sword-swinging ability. Now, she's on the hunt for the d-bag that killed her father, with her new-found lady friend by her side and a fiendish gangster (Sonny Chiba) poised to lay down some damage himself.
Before that sweet vengeance can transpire, Nami will have to live up to the "She-Cat Gambler" subtitle and play cards.
I think I like this installment in the Wandering Butterfly series over the original. Yes, yes, I'm going to commit and say I do in fact prefer it. Unfortunately, that's not a recommendation, because the same flaws from the first film are still evident in the second: a slow pace, an overindulgence in static gambling scenes and back-heavy action sequence.
What earns She-Cat Gambler the edge is that action sequence. The brouhaha from the first film was too quick and not nearly violent enough, but everything is enhanced for this one. The enemies are more numerous, the blood is brighter and more copious and Sonny Chiba and Meiko Kaji are studs.
Again, you're going to have to trudge through a lot of plot and dialogue and card-playing to get to this primo smackdown. There is a surprising amount of layered, complicated plot to fight through. Returning director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi is apparently enamored with exposing the intricate workings of a gangland empire and if you're wondering how these Japanese crime-lords got their business done, here you go.
As tedious as the film can be, Meiko Kaji and Sonny Chiba are both great here. Kaji is a strong heroine, who can dominate with a sword when called upon and effectively personalizes the vengeance quest. Chiba is the Alpha male and boasts one of the niftier fight entrances I've seen.
Synapse continues with the stellar DVD treatments. Picture quality is top-shelf, with a restored 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and an effective 2.0 mono track (Japanese with English subtitles). Extras: two interviews with Kazuhiko Yamaguchi and Pinky Violence expert J-Taro Sugisaku, a poster gallery and a biography.
It's a better experience than its predecessor and the title is seven kinds of awesome, though Wandering Ginza Butterfly 2: She-Cat Gambler is still plagued by issues and, again, I repeat my warning: tread carefully if you're in the mood for action.
The vote is closer, but…still not thinking this butterfly has wings.
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