Movie Review--Tokyo Gore Police
Peter GutiérrezA member of the Online Film Critics Society, Peter writes for Twitch, the Financial Times, and Rue Morgue. He is also a contributing editor at Metro magazine, and a columnist on blockbuster movies for Screen Education. Get too-frequent updates about comics, books, movies, and TV via Twitter: @Peter_Gutierrez View all articles by Peter Gutiérrez
The title kind of says it all, doesn’t it?
Let me begin by stating that, yes, this flick more than lives up to its hype. Let’s put it this way: anything that would be a gore “highlight” in another film is here often just part of the exposition. In essence, Tokyo Gore Police is a nonstop trailer and as such I haven’t seen anything that comes close to it in terms of being a manic mash-up of both genres and body parts. At least once every minute something happened that made me cringe, or laugh, or both.
Want a sampling? In the course of Tokyo Gore Police, we’re treated to a variation on the flying guillotine (the flying chainsaw, of course), a woman whose entire lower torso has the form and functionality of a set of crocodile jaws, an outsized phallus that makes literal the age-old metaphoric association with firearms, eyestalks that apparently shoot globs of—what is that, brain matter? I’m thinking that that can’t be good for the shooter in the long run. In any event, there are probably other, even wilder items than these, but I don’t really want to go back into my notes; I’m afraid of what I might find there. In fact, during the intro to the trailer—this is just the trailer, mind you—the organizers of NYAFF advised parents to cover their children’s eyes… then amended that to covering their brains. Even by splatter-cinema standards, the blood in this film doesn’t so much spray as deliver elaborate and precisely-timed exhibitions like the fountains at the Belaggio.
In the end you’ve got to hand it to director/co-writer/make-up and effects supervisor/and everything-else-guy Yoshihiro Nishimura. He came up with a conceit that actually makes no sense in the plane of reality we inhabit but is sheer genius as a launching pad for his imagination to spew the most outrageous imagery while still maintaining internal story logic: when one of the movie’s monsters (called“engineers” after genetic engineering) is wounded, the wound itself somehow morphs itself into a fleshy new weapon.
Yet for all its transgressive audacity, there are many standard genre elements present in TGP, which is part of Nishimura’s canniness of construction: without the touchstone of the familiar and the coherent, an effort like this could be doomed to spiral into an incomprehensible orgy of exploding meat. So what he did is graft all his meticulous gore-eography onto some fairly standard dramatic tropes. The cop who follows in his/her father’s footsteps, seeks revenge for that father’s death, and finally must fight the system he/she’s long been a part of—stop me if you’ve heard this one before. The point is, these elements, together and separately, have been the source of dare I say thousands of B-movies. What’s more, and this is easy to lose track of amidst all the crimson razzle-dazzle, Nishimura and his collaborators actually build a pretty solid structure in this regard. Adding to the film’s strong foundation is star Eihi Shiina (who may now be referenced in terms of this film and not just Audition). She isn’t called on to do much except to stare down freaks and look cool in her black-tie-and-katana ensemble, but in those areas she certainly excels.
The “moral” ramifications of such a work of art? I’m sorry, but I checked my compass the second I sat down and allowed myself to get trampled by the imagery in Tokyo Gore Police. Or maybe I didn’t entirely. I’m still puzzling through a possibly xenophobic and racist scene in which a Chinese and dark-skinned man apparently take pleasure in collecting Japanese body parts. If you’ve seen the film maybe you could explain that part to me, but in any case I salute you as a fellow survivor.
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