Back when I reviewed Machine Girl, I wrote: “[This film] not only goes over the top, it tears the top off, sets it on fire, and throws it back at you.” Now from the same gang of loons comes Tokyo Gore Police, which I’d normally describe as “over the top” — except that this time there’s really no top left to go over. The lid has blown clean off and gone sailing beyond the blue horizon.
The title alone should have told you what was up, and if nothing else it is complete truth in advertising. The movie is set in Tokyo; it deals with a privatized police army (possibly a parody of Mamoru Oshii’s Kerberos Panzer Corps, but who knows); and it is gory as all get-out. We are not even talking about the sort of thing that Dario Argento used to do back in his glory days — e.g., a severed arm spraying enough blood to paint a wall red. No, that’s not enough for Yoshihiro Nishimura & Co. His limb stumps and bisected torsos gush like fire hoses, spewing enough of the red stuff to fill a couple of municipal swimming pools. Every single time.
Tokyo’s new private police force has their hands full when
the Engineers show up — but Ruka's sword is there to help save the day!
What excuse for a plot there is revolves around Ruka (Eihi Shiina, also the razor-wire wielding nutjob in Takashi Miike’s Audition), a sword-slinging member of Tokyo’s new privatized police force. These are some cops: they drive around in cars that look like hearses, wear armor that’s both tribute to and parody of the traditional samurai kabuto, and sling swords and guns with equal ease. Ruka’s cold-eyed demeanor makes her only slightly less cuckoo than the rest of her compatriots: when a chainsaw-wielding maniac barricades himself on the roof of a building, she hitches a quick ride up there by straddling a bazooka and using it like a personal rocket. Haven’t seen that done before.
The cops have more than the usual subway gropers and toluene sniffers to deal with. Tokyo’s been infested by “Engineers”, mutant monsters that were once human but have become infected with a weird key-shaped tumor. When they’re injured, their wounds turn into weapons, and so we see the Engineers sport everything from chainsaws to shotguns to, erm, weaponized pieces of their anatomy that I cannot describe here. That makes them difficult but not impossible to kill, as Ruka quite aptly demonstrates during the opening massacre.
The Engineers: mutant monsters unleashed on the world by a
mad bioengineer, the police’s public enemy #1.
Most of the rest of the plot involves Ruka closing in on the original Engineer responsible for unleashing this plague, interleaved with some Trauma of the Past stuff about Ruka’s dad, also a cop, about which the less said the better. What’s more interesting is the barbed humor and (no!) social satire woven through the film. Apparently the rest of society is going bonkers as well, since we see riotous fake TV commercials for everything from “cute” wristcutting razors to anti-seppuku PSAs. The most scathing of the bunch, and the one that had me laughing most in disbelief, is about a government program that allows the relatives of victims of violent crimes to participate in the remote-control executions of the criminals in question … using a Wii-mote.
The effects people for Police were probably laughing madly the whole time they came up with the stuff that gets put on screen. It isn’t just arms being hacked off or heads split open — although we get plenty of those — but the kind of demented creations FX guys love to brag about. At one point we see an underground house of prostitution that brings new meaning to the terms “flesh market” and “tourist trap”. And there’s a climactic fight involving a) a giant Gatling gun that shoots severed arms and b) a break-dancing quadruple amputee sporting sword blades attached to each limb stump.
One of the reasons why I liked Machine Girl was because the gore was so cartoonish it wasn’t even gore, strictly speaking — it was more like absurdist gross-out comedy. It’s a shtick Sam Raimi kicked off with Evil Dead and which the Japanese seem to have picked up on with gleeful, runaway zeal. Tokyo Gore Police has the gore but also the sly attitude, in everything from its candy-bright color scheme to its cast of pop-eyed lunatics (the VJ-like police dispatcher is a scream). The hardest thing of all for me to swallow was the idea that Machine Girl was nothing but a dress rehearsal for this. Where do you go from up?