Written and directed by Kurando Mitsutake, the man who made a name for a himself a few years back with his Samurai Avenger: The Blind Wolf cult hit, comes 2014’s Gun Woman. Touted as a revenge film, this is a grim and gritty low budget picture that hits hard and winds up being a pretty intense watch.
When the movie begins, two American hitmen take out a female in the shower and toss her in the back of the car. As they drive to their destination, one man fills in the other about how and why this came to be. From here, through a series of flashbacks we learn the story of Hamazaki's Son (Noriaki Kamata), a deranged sex maniac whose late father was a Yakuza big wig. The younger Hamazaki has been effectively banished from Japan and sent to the United States to do his own thing, and that thing involves a lot of very naughty behavior. One day he makes the mistake of raping and killing the wife of a doctor (Kairi Narita), who swears to get revenge on the man.
Enter a woman never named (Asami), a drug addict who he buys from a slave trader. He gets her clean and sober and then trains her in fighting and weaponry. Shortly after she completes her training, he surgically implants all the parts of a gun she’ll need to assemble under her skin. Why? So she can be put into a state of suspended animation, impersonate a corpse and then, if the timing is right, wake up inside a compound that her target frequents. Hopefully she can do this in time to build that gun and take out the man who killed the doctor’s wife. It’s a complicated and gruesome plan, but it just might work.
Gun Woman isn’t a particularly plausible story but it is a good one, even if Mitsutake never really expands on it the way that you might want him to. The setup takes a bit longer than maybe it should have but there’s enough going on during these scenes to hold most viewers’ attention. One thing worth noting though is that the cartoonish over the top violence of Mitsutake’s earlier film is pushed aside in favor of a more decidedly realistic, and therefore considerably nasty, take on the limits of endurance that can be survived by the human body. Asami is really put through the ringer in this one, and at times it can be more than a little unsettling to watch.
And yet, the actress gives it her all. There’s very little dialogue in the movie and her character has virtually none, but her performance here is completely convincing. Most actresses wouldn’t touch a role requiring this much violence and unflattering nudity with a ten foot pole but Asami turns in a remarkably effective turn. Typically wearing little or no makeup and forced to deal with some decidedly dire conditions, she trudges along and using only body language and facial expressions succeeds in convincing her that the transformation she undergoes is legit. The whole ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ bit that’s shoehorned into the storyline doesn’t add much and feels out of place but otherwise, both the story and the lead actress play things pretty straight here.
Now there are moments where the film’s low budget definitely shows. Not all of the supporting players are as good as Asami (though Kairi Naria is good as the doctor and Noriaki Kamata is gleefully over the top as the bad guy and a blast to watch) and there’s some pretty questionable use of CGI here that’s hard not to notice. The locations used for the super-secret compound look more like a garage than a super-secret compound and the cast is obviously on the small side. But Mitsutake does an admirable job of making the most of what he has. Combine that creativity with Asami’s excellent work here and Gun Woman turns out to be quite a gripping, nasty little revenge film.
Gun Woman arrives on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.78.1 widescreen. As this was shot digitally there are obviously no problems with print damage. The disc shows nice detail, close up shots really get into the nitty-gritty in a big way, while color reproduction looks spot on. Black levels are good too. There’s a bit of shimmer in some spots but no serious compression issues. Skin tones look quite natural and all in all, the movie looks quite solid here.
The sole audio option for the disc is a DTS-HD 5.1 track that’s in Japanese and English with optional English subtitles. There are some good directional effects throughout the mix, but you’ll notice these effects the most during the shootout towards the end. The score is nicely balanced and dialogue is easy enough to follow and understand. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion to note and the levels are properly balanced.
Extras for this release begin with an audio commentary with Kurando Mitsutake and Actress Asami (In Japanese with English subtitles) that covers pretty much all the bases. Mitsutake covers where some of the ideas for this movie came from, the casting of the film, the locations used, the effects and more while Asami spends a fair bit of time talking about her experiences in front of the camera. Mitsutake flies solo for a second commentary, this one in English, that is a bit more of a scene specific breakdown of the film. More technically oriented than the first track it may cover some of the same ground but has enough of its own thing going on to make this worth checking out.
Additionally the disc includes a length Behind-The-Scenes featurette that’s made up of cast and crew interviews and loads of footage shot on set. This is pretty interesting stuff, particularly when it focuses on the more technical side of things showing off her certain scenes were shot and why. Rounding out the extras on the disc are three different theatrical trailers for the feature, menus and chapter selection.
The Final Word:
Gun Woman is a tough as nail revenge film done right. The story might not be the most plausible ever written but it’s got some interesting and original ideas at play. The real reason to watch this one, however, is for Asami – and not just for her looks. This is a bold, brave and impressive piece of acting on her part, a role that sees her use body language and facial expressions in place of dialogue to great success. Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray is a good one, offering up the movie uncut, in nice shape and with some quality supplements as well.
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