Tuesday, May 17, 2005

GUN CRAZY: A WOMAN FROM NOWHERE / GUN CRAZY: BEYOND THE LAW

"When women go wrong, men go right after them." – Mae West

Girls with guns and dangerous dames. For some of us, there's something very appealing about the concept of bad girls; hot, horny babes who can hold their own against men in the violence department – preferably while scantily clad. From delicious Dirty Harriets dealing justice from the barrel of a heavy caliber handgun to fetching felons wrestling in the middle of a muddy Filipino prison yard, bad girls can provide a very good time, indeed.

Filmmakers around the world know the entertainment value of a deadly damsel.

For example, anime and Asian cinema specialists, ADV Films, have two such discs in their catalog, sharing the not-so subtle sobriquet of GUN CRAZY. These are a couple of short feature films, each clocking in at around 70 minutes, both by the same director, and both prefaced with the phrase: "This is a fable of a woman with guns."

I suspect that the series is based on a manga, but I'm not sure.

In GUN CRAZY: A WOMAN FROM NOWHERE (2002), an attractive young woman (Ryoko Yonekura) rides her motorcycle into a small Japanese town run by a ruthless, white-clad crime boss who figures somehow in her tragic past. Once there, she recruits a few terrified residents – including the local burnt-out alcoholic sheriff – into helping her get her revenge. The whole film is an overt pastiche of Spaghetti Westerns, right down to the crudely animated title sequence and the Morricone-flavored score, and it's great.

The plot holds very few surprises, especially to fans of Sergio Leone or Sergio Corbucci, but Atsushi Muroga's direction is fast-paced and effective, managing to evoke the feel of his Italian inspirations more successfully than Robert Rodriguez in his own pasta pastiches.

ADV's disc is a pretty basic affair, with a sharp, pristine transfer, an English 5.1 soundtrack, Japanese 2.0 track, optional English subtitles, an on-camera interview with star Ryoko Yonekura, and previews for a half-dozen other live-action ADV releases.

In the second entry in the series, GUN CRAZY: BEYOND THE LAW (2002), a pretty, idealistic young lawyer (Rei Kikukawa), disillusioned by the corruption she discovers in the Japanese legal system, asks a hardboiled, professional hitman to train her to take justice into her own hands. She takes to the way of the gun with surprising skill and enthusiasm, and soon becomes his partner in taking over the local mobs. All goes well until he finally asks her to cross a line she isn't prepared to cross.

Again, what the story lacks in originality is made up for in smooth direction (once again by Muroga), and a very solid performance by the appealing Ms. Kikukawa. As with the first disc, ADV provides an English dub and the original Japanese language tracks, an on-camera interview with the lead actress, and six trailers for other ADV titles.

Personally, the familiarity of the stories didn't bother me – I watch a lot of crime movies and read a lot in the genre, so I know how difficult it is to come up with something completely fresh. Both films are short, moderately stylish, well performed and ultimately satisfying.

What more could you ask for? Well, if there's any more in the series, I could ask for those, I suppose…

BUY: Gun Crazy - A Woman From Nowhere

BUY: Gun Crazy: Beyond the Law