Saturday, October 20, 2012

Gothic & Lolita Psycho (2010) Movie Review

Somewhere deep in Tokyo, a grand party packed with rowdy yakuza, dancers, and generally unpleasant folk is taking place. Suddenly brewing amongst the gamblers, is a feud between an arrogant young american, and a cocky gangster and his lady(Asami) brews, only to be quelled by the oyabun throwing the party. It is only a moment after this altercation that the festivities are brought to a grinding halt by the messy entrance of a lone girl in gothic lolita gear, lusting after violent revenge. And this is merely the first five minutes of Go Ohara's ultra-schlocky no-budget actioner. A piece so geared toward a certain niche, that it is no way deserves any manner of serious discourse as it never intends to elicit any. Much like the recent output of one Yoshihiro Nishimura, and guys like Noboru Iguchi, one would expect this to maintain something of a kinship to what many may consider to be Japan's equivalent to Troma. But what happens instead, is more akin to a nugget of an idea awash in a basin of tinier, more scattered fragments.

After the sweet and innocent, Yuki and her family are attacked by a group of hooded evildoers, leaving the mother(Fumie Nakajima) dead, and father bound to a wheelchair, it is up to her (now inexplicably sporting a leather EGL outfit, something not terribly giving toward anyone looking for a fight) to hunt down each of these killers; each represented by a collection of tarot-style cards. With each confrontation becoming increasingly bizarre and challenging, Yuki's catholic priest father (Yurei Yanagi of Ringu & Juon) supports her by (again, inexplicably) supplying her with an assortment of multifunctional killer parasols. And after possibly only three minutes of exposition, Ohara just lets each ensuing battle take center stage, and often with zero to no context as to reason or rhyme. All we know is that Yuki's mother must be avenged, and that these villains can be straight out of a mid-to-low grade fighting video game, only with a much higher blood-gallon count. It's a goofy premise that could very easily make for an energetic and inspired sendoff to what was once a truly standout fashion movement. A look is never really over until it is cartoonized on film, and Gothic & Lolita Psycho has all the makings of what could be something special, but due to one issue or another, it never works beyond mere novelty.

Ohara's take on the revenge storyline never takes full advantage of an unfolding flashback that occurs through the film as we are introduced to each villain mere seconds before each confrontation. And this alone is enough to place a huge red flag over matters. One of the largest questions lingering throughout the film, concerns the reasons for the assault on Yuki's family, and subsequently, the death of her mother. For as simple a small amount of storytelling as this could be, the film never makes any real attempt to connect in any valid way in regards to the whys of everything including this. So all viewers are stuck with, are a series of fight scenes that range from mildly annoying (a school gym fight with a telekinetic teacher), to the absurdly amusing (Yuki versus the squeaky-voiced kogal Elle[Misaki Momose] is easily the film's highlight--John Woo dives, and grotesque amounts of god-ammunition make for an uncommonly fun ten-plus minutes). An exercise in incongruous ideas and improvised madness, one eventually has to throws their arms up with a film of this ilk, and just roll with it.  The problems come not because of it merely being so cheap, but rather that the piece never seems to find any balance between the revenge plot, and the ultimate goal. Stuff just happens in a goofy manner, and that's pretty much it. The final product feels like a majority of the budget went to Akiyama's outfit, the ever-present choir-of-doom score, and the FX which go from merely serviceable to terrible. It's bad enough that the makers behind the film offer no real reason for Yuki's demeanor, let alone her newfound interest in decadent couture. Again, films like this aren't meant to be pondered on too much, but these glaring issues are made moreso by a general lack of connective tissue. Closer in nature to Toxic Avenger 2 than to the original, there's a distinct lack of human grit to the proceedings that it becomes difficult to ignore. It's like an idea for a trailer that somehow got spun into full length, without any of the meat that justifies it.

So when we finally get to the "final boss" battle, and Yuki is brought to her limits, the movie piles on the absurd to the point where it simply lacks the fun necessary to sell it. Taking things back to Oneechanbara, an earlier film Ohara was involved in, we are witness to another exploitation piece bereft of many of the elements that made films like Iguchi's Machine Girl or Tokyo Gore Police. We are offered the promise of a fun, no-brainer night of action featuring kick-ass female leads often culled from the gravure/AV world, but it all lacks the one thing that is capable of even mildly redeeming the worst low-concept material..charm. (Frilly clothes need not apply)


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