Monday, December 10, 2007
You can keep your Johnny Depps, Brad Pitts and other pretty-boys-gone-weird! Tadanobu Asano tops my short list of performers who could recite the phone book and somehow manage to make it an interesting experience. For such a good looking guy he has an uncanny way of making himself seem awkward and unsexy regardless of the situation, whether running from angry thugs through the woods in his tighty whities (Sharkskin Man and Peach Hip Girl), stomping his way clumsily through Dance Dance Revolution (Last Life in the Universe), or wandering naked in an unsettling, surreal landscape and burying his face in the stomach of a decaying corpse(Rampo Jugoku). He's played suicidal losers, homicidal sociopaths, and obsessed boyfriends for just about every notable maverick director in Japan -- Kiyoshi Kurawasa and Sogo Ishi just to name a few. In Tokyo Zombie he plays a Jujitsu-fixated, afro sporting moron who hangs out with his middle aged buddy, the awesome Sho Aikawa of Dead or Alive fame. Really all we're missing is Riki Takeushi and it would be Japanese cult-movie heaven. No surprise that director Sakichi Sato's most notable screen credits are as a script writer for Takeshi Miike's Gozu and Ichi The Killer. Fun fact: Sato has appeared in several films as well, including his performance as 'Charlie Brown Waiter' in Kill Bill Vol 1.
Asano's Fujio is a brute with the mind of a child, Aikawa's Micchan is an aging hypochondriac who dreams of passing his Jujitsu skills to Fujio before he dies. They work at a factory in view of a giant trash heap in the middle of Tokyo dubbed "Black Fuji." When Fujio kills their abusive boss they decide to bury him in the trash heap (not an unusual idea as indicated by a young man burying his mother alive at the behest of his bitchy girlfriend, a school teacher disposing of a pantless student, oh and the numerous zombies now digging their way to the surface). It quickly becomes evident that the zombies are a growing problem, so our two heroes jump in their gaily painted delivery truck (complete with lace curtains) and hit the road for.... Russia?!? Why Russia? Because its Manly! Never mind that you can't drive to Russia from Japan... Micchan directs Fujio to drive North (because Russia is North) so of course he mistakenly goes South, requiring the pair to back track through Tokyo again where they rescue a the foul mouthed Yoko who is trying to escape zombies with a convenience store cash register in tow. And you know it will just get sillier as the story progresses. Jokes about homosexuality abound considering the two leads spend a good deal of screen time locked in Jujitsu holds, everyone they encounter is either violent, corrupt or perverted which works out well when they are, in turn, eaten by zombies. Horror Manga legend Kazuo Umezo (in his trademark striped shirt) makes an appearance as an expert on Paranormal phenomenon who seems rather excited that Zombies have "finally" made it to Japan, and demonstrates with gusto the removal of the head as the only solution. An animated segue fast forwards the story into a post apocalyptic Japan with blood sport for the bored Nuevo Riche... and a cliff hanger ending to top things off!
If you've been pinning for a successor to Wild Zero, Tokyo Zombie is just what you've been waiting for. Ok, so maybe Guitar Wolf doesn't pop up, but Japanese indie band The Homesicks rock the credits and obscure Toyko club scenesters Kamaboiler are already rumored to have rolls in the yet un-filmed sequel. A love letter to Eastern and Western Horror and B-films, this pop culture matsuri made my day.