Judge David Johnson thinks the "hot female Japanese galactic bounty hunter" genre holds all kind of potential.
She's beautiful. She destroys evil. She's a huntress.
More rubber-suit import action from the land of the rising sun? Yes please!
Facts of the Case
When your home planet is assaulted by an indestructible alien with a worm-like extendable woman's face, who do you call? How about Iria (Yuko Moriyama) and her sidekick, Bob, a talking computer? These two are the galaxy's premier bounty hunters and have been dispatched to recapture Zeiram, a genetically-engineered killing machine that's escaped from space custody and is on the rampage.
To bring Zeiram in, Iria stops first at Earth to set up base camp, and then enter The Zone, a virtual reality created for bad-ass space warriors to do battle against each other. But as Iria teleports in, she accidentally brings along a couple of goofy electricians into The Zone. With bystanders now drawn into the fray against the deadliest foe they've ever faced, Iria and Bob will have to draw on all their cunning and high-tech plastic-looking laser rifles to pull this one out.
Zeiram started out so promising. In an all black-and-white preamble, we see Zeiram escape his police captors with much violence. Body parts get mangled, faces are smashed, and fluid spouts in geysers, all in that over-the-top, rubber-suited flavor that is whacked-out Japanese sci-fi mayhem.
Then the brakes are applied, and aside from a few nifty action sequences, Zeiram drags. The high-points, action-wise are the face-offs between Iria and Zeiram, the biggest hitter happening close to the beginning. Skip ahead some chapters and we're at the finale, a stunning exercise in the art of multiple denouements (Peter Jackson must have been taking notes), and, thankfully some more action. But the middle third is comprised of the two bumbling electricians trying to make their way through The Zone after they are mistakenly left behind, with Iria talking them through the danger.
Talking. There's so much talking in this movie. Or maybe it felt like there was so much talking. I don't know, but it seemed those sequences where Iria and Bob droned on and on about obeying the by-laws of interstellar bounty-hunting and ensuring that no civilians died so that they could keep their licenses felt unending and monotonous. And Bob's deadpan, computer-speak shtick quickly devolved into tedium, which didn't do much to make the material more entertaining.
The action respites between the chattiness are much-welcomed and, for the most part, a lot of fun to watch. Zeriam is a ridiculous creation, a lumbering behemoth with a tentacle face not unlike those things from Tremors. Iria is no slouch either, as she's been outfitted with some bulky plastic super-armor that, while the get-up strikes me as counter-productive (her helmet resembles some kind of archaic third-party NES attachment), it goes a long way in giving the film a unique look. The visual effects are largely prehistoric, yet engaging in a schlocky way. Dig the portable prison, which engulfs its victim in some poorly-rendered CGI, then following a convenient edit, turns into what appears to be one of those giant, inflatable Santa snow-globes you can buy at Wal-Mart. Finally, the filmmakers have included nifty stop-motion animation for the climactic creature effects, which is always cool (though the sequence where they're used feels very Terminator-esque).
As can be expected with the Tokyo Shock branch of the Meida Blasters studio, this DVD delivers on the technical front. The 1.77:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks terrific, rejuvenated from its source materials, and boasting solid color works and detailing. Japanese and English stereo tracks accompany; I stuck with the dubbed audio because it fit the tone of the film more. English subtitles are available.
The only extra of interest is a decent making-of, featuring interviews with director Keita Amemiya and Yuko Moriyama. Trailers cap off the set.
There's some good fun to be had here: the action is fast and frenzied and littered with over-the-top effects and the film boasts a laid-back, lighthearted tone, which is infectious. Unfortunately, a slow pace and too-long dialogue scenes keep Zeiram from being a real find.
Not guilty, but next time keep the dopey electricians at home.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Media Blasters
• Making-of Feature
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