Yo-Yo Girl Cop
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Highly trained in martial arts, armed with a deadly steel yo-yo and an undercover identity, K infiltrates an elite high school, Seisen Academy. Her mission: to identify and eliminate suspected terrorists. Her only lead is an underground website with an ominous timer counting down the minutes. Wielding her deadly yo-yo, K must stop the terrorists before they achieve their apocalyptic plot to destroy the city.
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However, I have to say that the movie manages to put a lot more heart into the story. Part of that is the artress playing the main character who wears the role of tough streetwise girl well. She looks a bit out of place at times, but that is part of the story and the writers manage to use that to help build the drama and tension.
This movie isn't for everyone. By most Japanese standards its almost non-violent. The few deaths are remarkably unbloody and there is little violence in the first half of the movie. Instead the tale builds slowly towards the fights at the end. The fights themselves do have a unreal feel about them, but are still fun to watch.
Good fun, and a surprisingly clean action film. Better than many I've seen Hollywood pump out in the past 5 years.
The film that ensues from that premise is a pleasant surprise. Saki is a transfer student with a major attitude, and while the characters are largely two-dimensional they are well played by all involved. The storyline, plus the action are all staged against a very stylish backdrop (I particularly appreciated the use of color, e.g. the sole red umbrella in a sea of white ones.) A word of note: the audio is in either Japanese or English, and English (or Spanish) subtitles are available and recommended. The fast-paced and quirky editing makes parts of this film difficult to immediately comprehend for those who do not read Japanese, as much is revealed on computer monitors and via cell phone text messages; the subtitles explain some but not all of what is going on. This is not particularly objectionable, as it makes an otherwise fairly straightforward plot a bit more intriguing.
The film makes clear that high school is a largely miserable experience in Japan as well as elsewhere, and rarely have hordes of teenage girls been less appealing. While Saki is the new antihero on campus, the reigning leader of the girl gangs is the equally beautiful and perfectly malevolent Reika Akiyama (yet another Japanese pop star, Rika Ishikawa,) a ruthless leader who is also a master yo-yo artist. The leads were tutored in the yo-yo arts for several months before filming began by two time world champion Takahiko Hasegawa, the film's "Yo-Yo Coordinator." Before it's over with there is ritual hazing, a janitor of doom, a weird allegory based on "Romeo and Juliet," another secret agent in the student body (or is there?), and a subplot about the chemistry club being on the forefront of both explosives manufacture and hairstyle.
Fukasaku is brilliant with composition and lighting, and even when things are temporarily (deliberately) unclear, the direction and resultant atmosphere is nothing short of stunning (of particular note is the scene involving an MP3 player on a city bus.) There is abundant teenage bullying inflicted on Saki's new school friend Tae Konno (Yui Okada in her first screen role, and who actually graduated from high school during filming,) and particularly on the genuinely traumatized Kotomi Kanda (Erika Miyoshi) who was so brutalized she is mute and unresponsive in a hospital until finally delivering a key piece of information leading to the plot's resolution. Ignoring the dubious suggestion that in Japan it is extremely easy to convince teenagers to strap bombs to themselves (the film actually opens with "Melon Kinenbi's" Masae Ohtani exploding in a busy intersection,) the film does effectively use the backdrop of the miseries of school as a potential cauldron of destruction: the evil mastermind turns out to be Jiro Kimura (Shunsuke Kubozuka,) or "Romeo," a seemingly disaffected teen focused on the wholesale slaughter of an enormous student assembly (in a gym, of course) because he had a bad time in high school. (In other words, he went to high school...so what makes him so special?) In a brilliant twist, murder and mayhem aren't the only things on his mind, which leads to an extremely theatrical fight between the two yo-yo divas that must be seen to be believed.
The yo-yo whirlwind comes to a head in a creepy industrial building. Saki has finally zeroed in on the den of evil, and the only thing keeping her from dispatching the evil band is (of course) Reika. In a nice touch, the girls up to the conclusion have been shown in demure and conservative school uniforms, but once the lines of good and bad have been delineated, the costumes change for the dramatically more interesting: Saki strides toward the action confidently in a black leather catsuit, which is stunning. Upon entry to the building she discovers Reika in an even more amazing two piece outfit in black leather. This duel has, of course, been in the making the entire movie, and given Saki's initial miscues with her yo-yo in a shopping mall (in a very amusing scene) definitely seem to put her at a disadvantage in the fight. The battle includes many nail-biters, CGI yo-yo effects that are fairly effective, martial arts, plot revelations, and much insight into the motivations of some of the key players. The fight is obviously quite over the top, particularly so with the James Bond-style spinning yo-yo blades of death moment. While Reika is deadly with a yo-yo, Romeo brings a sword to the fight (now that string seems like a weak point, huh?) and his henchmen bring even stronger firepower. The blond hair reveal and ickiest kiss ever set the stage for a morality play showdown, and the ending is a stunner that will not disappoint.
Although I didn't expect much from this film, I ended up enjoying it quite a bit. Despite its obvious anime-themed (and executed) plotline, when viewed for what it is, it's quite pleasant: think of it as a spaghetti western with pretty girls and yo-yos instead of Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and pistols. The cast is uniformly excellent, particularly the two female leads Matsuura and Ishikawa. Equally perfect in their parts are Kubozuka and Saki's Organization K handler Detective Kira (Riki Takeuchi) who normally plays an unsympathetic heavy in most of his films, though here he plays a tough guy with a definite soft side and troubled past under his rough exterior. Fukasaku's direction and pacing add immeasurably to the underlying simple premise, and locations, sets, and lighting are all picture perfect (though there a few flaws in the DVD transfer, they are minor and inoffensive.) The DVD also features a 42 minute "Making of: 'Yo-Yo Girl Mission'" (the original Japanese title) documentary which is interesting and highly recommended as well as the original Japanese trailer.
Although "Yo-Yo Girl Cop" is a youth-oriented action movie, it is far more entertaining that the vast majority of films in that crowded genre. While not particularly breaking any new cinematic ground, it's an involving diversion that is filmed beautifully, is well acted and directed, and is never boring even when it goes way over the top.
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2) Maybe a police procedural?Read more