Review: Yoshihiro Nishimura’s “Tokyo Gore Police”

Patton Oswalt, one of my favorite comedians, and one of the best currently working, has a great routine about movie titles. According to Oswalt, the greatest movie title ever created is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, because it is perfectly descriptive of the film it is attached to. You can practically see the film in your head as you hear the title. The same goes for Yoshihiro Nishimura’s Tokyo Gore Police, a delirious and (mostly) entertaining blast of J-horror excess. There’s no ambiguity, or any chance that you will be fooled when you sit in the theater. As the title promises, and which it delivers and then some, there is lots and lots of gore in this film, and there is no chance that you will instead be confronted with, say, a sensitive Merchant Ivory-type romance. The film stars Eihi Shiina, a model-turned-actress who is best known to Western moviegoers as the bride from hell in Takashi Miike’s Audition. In Tokyo Gore Police, she is one of the titular keepers of the peace, on the trail of mass murderers who specialize in mutilating their victims in gruesomely creative ways. In the near-future Tokyo of the film’s setting, the police force has been completely privatized, freeing the police to go after criminals with impunity, and outside the realms of judicial scrutiny. Ruka (Shiina), a cop specializing in catching “engineers,” criminal masterminds who compel others to kill, and use their own wounds as weapons. Ruka’s father (Keisuke Horibe) was killed when she was a young girl, as he was protesting the privatization of the police force.

But this film’s raison d’être is bloody excess, and lots of it. Chainsaws cutting through flesh and bone, viscera spilling out of stomachs, geysers of blood spraying from wounds, a turret of severed hands used as missiles, a woman whose legs are replaced by alligator-like serrated teeth, and the piece de resistance, a huge penis gun: all that and much more can be found here. The film’s main attraction, of course, is the exquisitely gorgeous Shiina herself. On the evidence of this film, however, to describe her as an “actress” may be a tad generous. To call her performance minimal would be wildly overstating it. The very few times that emotion is called for from her character, it doesn’t quite come off. But considering the outrageous nature of most of what happens in the film, this may be the best performance strategy. So much blood and guts, though, can be somewhat enervating after awhile. And this may be me becoming an old fogey, but I feel like I’ve reached a point where I’ve outgrown this type of thing, and seeing people sawed in half, and drawn and quartered, doesn’t thrill me as much as it used to. And I’ve especially become more and more sensitized to the depiction of violent acts directed towards women, and it has become ever more distasteful to me. In one scene, a very unlucky call girl is gored between the eyes, dismembered and stuffed in a box. At the screening I attended, there were a few enthusiastic whoops and hollers in the audience at this, which bothered me greatly. That this kind of thing is considered cool or fun disturbs me quite a bit. But to Nishimura’s credit, he counteracts this with his tough-as-nails female protagonist, and he proves himself to be an equal opportunity goremeister. In one of the film’s best scenes, Ruka gets her revenge against a molesting subway pervert by pulling him off the train, taking him outside, and cutting off his hands with a samurai sword. Ruka then walks away from him in slow motion, making full use of her fashion runway training, using an umbrella to shield herself from the geysers of blood emanating from the subway groper’s hands. This image is a brilliant perversion of clichéd Japanese iconography.

So with Tokyo Gore Police, you know going in what you’ll be getting. And if you’re into that sort of thing, you most certainly won’t be disappointed.