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Fantasia 2014: ‘Gun Woman’ takes the concept of concealing weapons to strange new heights

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Gun Woman
Written and directed by Kurando Mitsutake
Japan, 2014

How much more physically survivalist are men compared to women? History has shown time and time again that when wars erupt for national supremacy or resources, battles on the front are fought by the male sex, not the female one. Men’s tennis asks its contestants to win more sets than the women. Men bodybuilders look so much more imposing than their female counterparts. The list can go on and on, and yet for all the qualities men claim to that denote their physical superiority, there is one, albeit one that doesn’t come in service very often, that provides women with the clear-cut advantage. Woman can lose more blood from their bodies than men before finally giving in to death, two thirds of the blood in their bodies to be exact. That is an insane bit of knowledge, one that director Kurando Mitsutake takes to an extreme level in his own insane film, Gun Woman.

A hitman (Matthew Floyd Miller) and a driver (Dean Simone) head from Los Angeles to Las Vegas where a rendez-vous point awaits them. Along the way the driver, curious about the job the hitman has hired him for, inquires about the various personalities involved. So begins the tale, told via flashbacks, about a mad scientist (Kairi Narita) who vowed revenge on the vile piece of scum who raped and killed his wife before his very eyes. The target of his vitriol was one Hamazaki (Noriaki Kamata), the insane son of an influential Japanese socialite (Tatsuya Nakadai, whose amusing cameo is limited to a photograph of his character). The scientist, left handicapped after his encounter with Hamazaki, kidnaps and forces a young woman named Mayumi (Asami) to become his pawn and weapon of choice. When her brutally intense, masochistic training is complete, Mayumi is sent in to a secretive location where clients such as Hamazaki engage in necrophilia. The revenge plot takes effect in some surprising ways…

Every year a couple movies will come along and successfully shock an audience. Their graphic content pushes the boundaries of decency to the very limits and occasionally surpasses them with devilish delight. One’s handling of the psychotic visuals the director vomits onto the screen depends largely on how one perceives the tone with which the filmmaker approaches the material. A film like A Serbian Film made headlines a few years ago but it seemed as though its notoriety was for all the wrong reasons. Director Kurando Mitsutake cleverly marries grunge and comedy together, never venturing too far deep into one or the other. The film is gritty but also silly. It is dark in tone but also for its humour. What’s more, director Mitsutake goes for broke with his effects shots, making the most of his modest budget. On the flip side of the budgetary question, the smaller the budget the less studio intervention, resulting in more freedom for the artist to create the type of film he or she chooses to. Oh dear lord does Kitsutake ever go for the whole nine yards!

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The purpose of the framing device can essentially be boiled down to the film offering the viewers two surrogates to express what in all likelihood the viewers themselves will be thinking when witnessing the madness unfold. Every few minutes the film will cut back to the car, with the driver expressing incredulity at the mind-boggling tale the assassin relates. He isn’t alone. Even seasoned graphic genre film fans will find at least some moments of Gun Woman stomach-turning. Had Gun Woman taken itself seriously to the extreme, one wonders what the reception would be like. As it stands, the movie is a little bit easier to digest, but just a little bit. Violence towards women barely skims the surface regarding the malpractices engaged by the madman scientist on his victims. The prosthetic effects are tremendously grisly and eerily life-like. What shots the team pulls off are often repugnant, but kudos for making it all look real. The aforementioned fact about a woman capable of losing two-thirds of her blood before finally collapsing is put into practice not once but twice! Two times.

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An aspect to filmmaking that can easily get lost in the hoopla of such a visually unique motion picture is the acting. None of the performances will garner much attention come awards season, yet most of the cast can be commended on being quite game. Matthew Floyd Miller and Dean Simone are given purposely on-the-nose dialogue and stereotypical banter played for laughs. Their rapport is never taken seriously but is effective in producing a few good chuckles. On the Japanese side of things, Kairi and Noriaki Kamata play up their parts with equal bombast, one-upping each other with every passing scene. For all intents and purposes they represent two sides of the same coin, each one having completely lost his marbles and channelling his insanity for the most outrageous purposes. At the center of it all is Asami, who is not given very much dialogue. Her performance is measured through facial expressions of confusion, surprise, anger, determination, and, in more than one instance, total panic. Interestingly enough, Mayumi can be likened to a silent film character, making her arguably the most interesting character in the film despite uttering nary a word.

Is Gun Woman stupid? Yes, it is very stupid. Is it revolting? Yes, in some scenes it is quite revolting. Just as shocking as some of the plot developments themselves, Mitsutake’s film ends up a pretty memorable lark. One has to enter with the proper mindset, of course, otherwise it will easily turn off the average viewer. The film embraces the ‘show, don’t tell’ mantra, never shying away from depicting some truly gross effects. If one can handle a little queasiness, Gun Woman is a brash and bold bit of dark humour.

— Edgar Chaput

Please visit the official website of the Fantasia International Film Festival.


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