on November 28, 2012
HOOK: members from a diamond heist gone wrong six years ago gather for a celebration dinner where sushi is served on the body of a naked woman.
LINE: presumably one would watch this based on the premise alone (what do you mean it's sushi served on a naked woman?!). ten seconds in and my mind's been taken over by the lush visuals and crazy performances. Fish (played by noah hathaway) has just been let out of a six-year prison sentence -- waiting for him in the prison parking lot is a guy twice his size, with an invitation he cannot refuse. Duke (tony todd) is the heist ringleader who's dinner invite to celebrate Fish's prison release is accepted by Crow (mark hamill), Francis (james duval), and Max (andy mackenzie). all four men are convinced Fish hid the diamonds from the botched heist and seize the opportunity to force a confession. a dinner with your four ex-con buddies in a remote restaurant on a dark, rainy night? guaranteed pee-in-your-pants freak-out, no matter how beautifully naked your dinner is served. two-thirds of the film is lavished on the dinner -- each delicious, nail biting, gum chewing moment of it. every second is punctuated by in-your-face dialogue -- mark hamill's Crow (the perfect unhinged jester) in particular gets quite a few memorable one- liners. when Crow is not making withering observations, Max is busy breaking apart the room and the people in it. Francis is the cowering conscience of the audience while Duke's even, measured menace casts the shadows overall. and you, the audience? you get to watch Fish suffer through literal torture. crazy, intense, holy-crap-they-did-not-just-do- that torture. and all the while, the sushi girl is laying on the table. not making a peep admist the cursing, the gushing blood. what in all hells is going on around here!?
SINKER: now here's the thing -- it'd be easy to dismiss sushi girl as a b-grade gore fest. which is the laziest of all lazy conclusions. the first ten minutes tell you otherwise, from the sushi girl's reaction to Duke to Fish's anguish over his son not recognizing his voice. while the film happily (gleefully) takes you to those moments where it wallows in torture pr0n, there is quite a revenge story lurking beneath all the flashy talk and flying bullets. a twist ending worthy of many repeated viewings. a movie can be pretty (which sushi girl most definitely is) but without a good story supported by convincing performances, it cannot be memorable. the cast of sushi girl gave all that and bag a chips to bring to life extreme characters that, at turns, make you laugh and then scare the bejesus of you. the film rides on these highs until it slams you with a climax that turns the roller coaster on its head -- where you're left savoring the bittersweet emotions that only the best revenge stories can evoke. i wax fancy verbage but i do not lie. sushi girl is the kind of film that everyone will reference in the future -- or at the very least try their damnedest to imitate and post to you-tube.
on March 10, 2013
Fish jumps out of the frying pan and into the fire when he is released from prison into the hands of the four other men that were involved in a botched diamond heist. They welcome him home to a fine sushi dinner that has been laid out on a beautiful woman, but before he can set in, he is tied, tortured, and interrogated over the location of the diamonds. It isn't long before their past rivalries catch up with them as the thieves turn on one another with millions of dollars at stake between them. Kern Saxton's explosive new exploitation flick takes all the right cues from Quentin Tarantino by placing a firm emphasis on the characters and their finely-crafted dialog amidst the gruesome torture and gore. SUSHI GIRL plays out a lot like RESERVOIR DOGS, with frequent allusions to past events and entertaining anecdotes that draw us in and keep us glued to the screen. The cast is an exploitation fan's dream, featuring favorites from all across the genre that include Tony Todd as Duke, Noah Hathaway as Fish, Mark Hamill as Crow, and additional appearances by James Duval, Danny Trejo, Michael Beihn, Jeff Fahey, Sonny Chiba, and many more. This comes at a cost, however, since many of these character actors play to type and ham it up in the process. Still, it is the comic book super-villainy of characters like Duke and Crow that makes them so enjoyable, even in their weaker moments. Plot contrivances aside, SUSHI GIRL offers a number of fun twists that few will see coming, and holds a certain appeal for Tarantino fans.
I Like Horror Movies
on October 22, 2014
OK, this manages to get a 5 star review out of me. Why? Because it's an amazing little movie, wonderfully written, clever and creative, with non linear editing and a major plot twist or two. It's also amazingly filmed, dark, moody, with a rich color palette and is excellently acted. Most particularly, look for Mark Hamill in what to me is his best performance ever. Honestly, based on seeing him in a few low budget scifi pieces after Star Wars I would never have expected such a stunning performance from him. He plays an older, greasy, slimy obviously gay violent thug, long greasy blonde hair, just a despicable person, and boy does he do it with panache!
This manages to out Tarantinio Tarantino, and out Reservoir Dog Reservoir dogs, it's that kind of criminal movie.
on November 22, 2015
Hard-boiled crime admixed with horror in this gritty, gruesome tale of dogged thieves in search of treasure and comeuppance. The ensemble cast of genre-experienced actors is universally good with Mark Hamill delivering a rich and nuanced portrait of a deeply damaged, cruel, and self indulgent criminal and Tony Todd using that deep and throaty voice and sizable frame to project unrestrained but focused malevolence as the thieves' headmaster. However the real revelation of this already cult movie, may be the young, beautiful, and remarkably talented woman who literally embodies the title role, Courtney Palm. It isn't easy to be in nearly every scene, to be part of the tension rapidly ratcheting towards the unbearable, to be nearly naked. She pulls it off, and does exactly what she needs to, exactly when she needs to--and her character resonates with you emotionally long after you've seen it. I haven't seen many small, indy thrillers that have a beginning, middle, and end, maintain the suspense, ladle in just the right amount of gory horror, and satisfy you with storytelling. This movie leaves you completely satisfied on all levels, and you won't be second-guessing the third act, which is the case for 90% of the other indy genre flicks--but not the magnificently entertaining 'Sushi Girl.' Add this one to your collection, give it as a gift to your fellow fans. And see everything that Courtney Palm is in from now on.
on February 10, 2013
Sushi Girl(released Dec/12)stars,among others,Tony Todd,as the Duke,Noah Hathaway as the Fish,James Duval,as Francis,Andy Mackenzie,as Max,Mark Hamill,as the Crow,Cortney Palm,as the Sushi Girl,and Sonny Chiba,as the Sushi Chef.After viewing this all I can say is wow.This is certainly a visual feast for ones senses,with alot going we see and some we do not see.It can certainly be compared to alot of the Tarantino like films produced over the past few years,but it also stands on its own.
The story opens with the start of a reel to reel tape deck being turned on,by person(s)unknown,a sushi chef preparing his product in a kitchen with a bundle of cash thrown near the food,by person unknown,and a lovely girl preparing her makeup,dressed up with a Japanese affectation.As she sits at her vanity,in the background a lighter comes alive and there stands the Duke.He comes over,kisses the nape of her neck,on which we notice an old scar,reminiscent of a bullet wound.We are inside a restaurant the Duke owns and it is of a Japanese bent also.The girl,lies down naked on the main dinner table as the chef delicately,discreetly and purposely places raw sushi over the girls body.He tells her,in no uncertain terms,to lay still and to say nothing,despite what she may or may not hear.
It turns out this is a get together of a group of heist men.Six years earlier while fleeing a diamond heist,their van was broadsided by another vehicle and flipped over.When the other driver came to help,the Duke shot him dead.As the rest slowly piled out of the van,police sirens were heard in the distance and they all fled in different directions.The bag man that day,Fish,who was the last to have in his possession the stolen diamonds,has gotten out of prison this day and he is being escorted to the Duke's restaurant by car,by a big hulking underling.Before he arrives we are introduced slowly but surely to the other members of the gang.When Fish finally arrives,he sits at the end of the table.The Duke tries to be a congenial host but the Fish knows why he's there and doesn't want to play the waiting game the Duke is intent on playing.The Fish is soon tied up in a chair,and things start to go south very quickly.The Duke explains his taste for things Japanese,from his fathers unpleasant past in a Japanese prison camp during WW2,to his fathers senseless beatings of his younger son while using a timer picked up in the prison camp.The Duke has that self same timer,and after three minutes if the Fish hasn't spilled the beans on the location of those diamonds,each member of the group,in turn, gets to have at him,in their own inimitable ways.Francis is the most reticent of the group and hangs back while Max and the Crow compete to see which one can break the Fish first.When they go a little too far,which happens frequently,the Duke reigns them in.
This goes on and on until Max loses his patience and brass knuckle the poor Fish to death.Now there is no more info forthcoming.As Max and the Crow argue,Francis has gone to the washroom,thrown up,and after,has snorted a line of coke.He has also revealed that he is wired and a plant.Upon returning to the chaotic scene the Duke starts pressing Francis as to why he is has been so reticent,and accuses him of being wired.Francis tries to fluff it all off,telling everyone the Duke has no plans to let anyone go,then the Crow and Max also start in on him.Max rips his shirt off and the wire isn't there(probably ditched in the washroom).The Duke shoots Francis dead.Max and the Crow are now challenging each other at gunpoint and a short but deadly battle now unfolds between them...to the death.As both lay barely alive on opposite sides of the room,the Duke goes to each and puts the final bullet in each of them.
The Duke is now alone with the Sushi Girl,who is next on his menu.He had explained to the group in the beginning that the placement of the food was not an accident.The outside sushi was your run of the mill fish,but the more "delicately" placed pieces came from deadly poisonous blow fish.If done right the side effects are minimal,but done wrong,they could easily kill a person.The Duke leans down to kiss the girl then takes a piece right from the middle.In a short time the Duke is immobilized in his chair.The Sushi girl gets up and she unveils her six year long wait of revenge on the Duke and his men.It seems the man who went to check on the group after their van turned over and was killed,was not alone that day.She was in the other vehicle that day and watched the whole thing go down.When the group left,she rushed to check on her dead sweetheart and found some diamonds that had spilled out of the bag the Fish had fled with.It is these she kept,cashed and paid the sushi chef off with,to "prepare" the fish just "right".The Duke has to sit there,unable to talk or move,while she puts a lone bullet into a revolver and plays a sordid game of one sided Russian Roulette with him.The inevitable happens and the girl walks calmly out the door.Outside is the hulking driver who initially picked up the Fish.He torches a police van in which are two men and the reel to reel deck we saw at the beginning of the film.She gets into the car and off she is driven.
There are so many neat touches in this film,it's impossible to list them all.Right off I have to say that Mark Hamill's tour de force performance was absolutely spectacular.He channeled the late flamboyant Truman Capote,I'm sure,for his role and it is a hoot.Tony Todd,the exec prod in this one,is,as always,right on the money.I can't think of a Todd performance I have never liked.The rest of this small cast are equally good in their parts.Watch for some bit parts by Michael Biehnn and Danny Trejo during the diamond heist.An aspect of the picture that should be mentioned also is the wonderful way the story builds.The film doesn't rush into its main thrust,but slowly build's up to that point,bit by bit,not only preparing us for what is to come but explaining out the thought processes of each character and the raison d'etre for what we will experience.The cinematography is also worth noting,such as the shot as we first enter the restaurant approaching an open semi circular doorway.The music was well picked also.The opening credits are seen to the background music of Shirley Bassey singing "Diamonds are Forever",from the Connery/Bond film of the same name;appropriate.The closing credits has Issac Hayes singing a funky "Walk on By".
Technically speaking the film is in its w/s a/r o 1:78:1 and is clear and crisp.Extras include a music vid,a directors diary and multiple commentary.
All in all a wonderfully quirky film with a Tarantino type touch,but is a film that stands on its own merits.A warning,it ultimately does get a bit gory,but the story arc and process nicely eases us into it.Not violence for violence sake.Recommended.Four solid stars.