Tokyo Gore Police (2008)
Directed by: Yoshihiro Nishimura
Written by: Kengo Kaji, Maki Mizui, Yoshihiro Nishimura
Starring: Cay Izumi, Eihi Shiina, Ikuko Sawada, Itsuji Itao, Sion Sono, Yukihide Benny
Somewhere back in time cyberpunk cinema in Japan, quite appropriately, mutated and branched off from Tetsuo: The Iron Man and into the likes of Meatball Machine. Things became bloodier and slimier in some cases, while in others the swords and guns started to become bigger and more grotesque. Between all of the body horror and technological nightmares it’s no surprise that the film makers in this case decided to throw some action movie clichés into the meat-grinder. But while the basic premise involves a girl trying to live up to her late father’s legacy by joining the police, there’s little else here that will be familiar. There’s a temptation to simply reel off all the varied and outrageous moments as the film veers into Ero Guro-esque vagaries and RoboCop style commercial breaks. The sheer number of odd sequences is certainly a strength in a story that could have perhaps lost twenty minutes here or there. But there are many other intriguing, and disgusting, facets to consider.
In a dystopian vision of Tokyo the police force has become privatised and armour-clad troopers shoot on sight. The capes and medieval helmets, along with their stylised squad cars, are certainly a choice. Meanwhile their headquarters seems to be an abandoned warehouse made of bare concrete. Where (and why) is some kind of pop-star broadcasting their orders from? It’s anybody’s guess. In the city commercials that seem to condemn suicide, but promote buying edged weapons to commit self-harm, are broadcast on huge billboards. Where the budget was saved, and where it was spent, is soon very apparent as the city is barely changed but an endless supply of gruesome prosthetics and bizarre costumes seems to be available. The world in which these corporate death squads operate is certainly a heightened reality but choices such as cheap digital photography and blue-screen effects show its limitations.
The story which takes place in this near-future nightmare concerns Ruka (Eihi Shiina) and her troubled past. Her father was killed during some kind of public event, the details of which are drip-fed to the viewer, and so she’s out to deal justice and do him proud. Dear old Dad didn’t get to see the world as it is now or its newest inhabitants. A mutant breed of humans called ‘engineers’ have appeared and Ruka has become a specialist in their capture. Of course it’s no surprise that they’re not being brought in alive. It’s a world in which criminals are dealt with brutally; for petty offences or mass murder. She carries a sword and no handcuffs after all. But there’s a wrinkle in the police plan to bring about a better society as the engineers have an unusual ability; if they’re wounded the injury will sprout a weapon. Eyes become gun barrels and arms become chainsaws leaving little to the imagination as things progress.
Meanwhile the villain Key Man (Itsuji Itao) is out killing sex workers and call girls by draining their blood. Why does he leave the blood in little bottles along with their body parts for the police to find? What is the key-shaped tumour he gives to his accomplices? What is the connection between his father’s laboratory work and Ruka’s own past? Don’t expect too many answers. Some details become clearer as the madness goes on but others are annoyingly vague. People chew live insects on subway trains and cops attend strip shows inhabited entirely by mutant creations. Commercials suggests that wrist-cutting is a new teen fad but it’s never really explained. Perhaps it’s a corporate ruse to weed out new engineers. Meanwhile there are both science-fiction and fantasy sequences to explain Key Man’s grand plan, but there are no definitive explanations. It’s more sickening spectacle than character drama after all.
There are eventually a few quiet introspective moments to prevent this from all become too overbearing. Ruka seems to be the only character who isn’t over-acting to the extreme, in most scenes she’s lacking any sort of obvious emotion. When they’re aren’t gallons of blood being pumped across the screen bar owner Mama (Ikuko Sawada) shares some flashback moments with her. The reveal of Key Man’s own sad story and his relation to a police sniper also offers some respite from the severed limbs and flailing appendages. It’s not exactly deep stuff but there are some moments of animation and it’s often pretty funny in its own twisted way. Ruka’s birthday party or her encounter with a pervert certainly push all of his towards farce, as does a scene in which only half a suspect’s head is scanned into an ID computer. But this is hardly a cutting satire about law enforcement when there are characters called ‘Alligator Girl’ on the call sheet.
As a blend of horror and action things fare less well as all the sword fighting and gun battles erupt. The editing is all pretty choppy as characters flip around by launching from walls or by doing rocket jumps. This kind of video-game logic extends to villains mutating into new shapes as the battles go on. But perhaps some of these sequences should have been shot more coherently. Some of the leaps in narrative logic would be more forgiveable if these moments were clearer. It’s acceptable to be confused by body parts that shoot acid or wounds that spray enough blood to cause levitation, but it doesn’t have to be so shaky. These aren’t complicated duels, they’re straightforward and messy in other ways. Tonally it often seems like someone is about to say ‘it’s only a flesh-wound!’ as things get ridiculous in the third act massacre, so restraint behind the camera would be appreciated.
Ultimately it’s a huge bloody mess in more ways than one. It’s at least more compelling than the likes of The Machine Girl or Stacy which had less imagination and somehow less plot. It’s bound to have some audience members reeling and turning off as the bodily fluids and mutant appendages become more outrageous, but that’s the nature of this sort of extreme cinema fare. On the other hand some viewers may be far more invested in all the depraved world building, the frequent sadomasochism, or all of the latex covered creature designs. It’s not wholly original in terms of comedy content and eventually so many geysers of blood are numbing instead of shocking. But the deranged and varied practical effects are plentiful in a film that lives up to its nonsensical title. It’s too long and it’s often lacking in narrative tissue, despite all the flesh involved, but to its credit there’s never a dull moment.