A Japanese Cult Classic in the Making: Tokyo Gore Police
Feb 9, 2009
It's only the beginning of 2009, but I've already found the first contender for my "Best Horror Film of 2009" list—the insanely over-the-top, delightfully splattery Tokyo Gore Police. If this is a sign of what's to come for horror fans this year, we're all in for a treat.
A heady mixture of Takashi Miike's typical Japanese insanity and David Cronenberg's pet theme of bodily dysfunction (with homages to the social parodies of Paul Verhoeven's Robocop and Starship Troopers), Tokyo Gore Police wears its inspirations on its sleeves (right next to all the blood and pieces of flayed flesh…)—it's not a particularly deep film, but if you love Japanese cinema with an abundance of severed limbs, geysering fountains of blood, and cute girls dressed up like they're headed to a cosplay convention, this is a film you'll certainly want to check out.
The hauntingly lovely Eihi Shiina (you may remember her as Asami from Miike's classic, Audition) is Ruka. Ruka's a young cop on a special unit designed to hunt down "engineers". Engineers are some sort of mutants with a weird key-shaped gene that makes them go completely psychotic and murder anyone and everyone in their path. The only way to kill an engineer is to deliver a blow to them that cuts the key in half—any other injuries not only don't kill them, but instead turn into Cronenbergian weapons (think the flesh gun from Videodrome and you've got it). In this wacky future Japan, the police force has been privatized (which leads to all sorts of room for parody), and when Ruka's not tracking down engineers (or slicing her wrists…) she's seeking to find out who killed her father (a decorated cop assassinated in the line of duty).
The story is the film's greatest shortcoming. TGP runs for a little under two hours, and one often gets the feeling that it could have been tightened up significantly. The subplot involving Ruka's father isn't all that interesting (nor is the reveal at the end when she finds the killer) and it eats up some significant screentime in the latter half of the movie. That's the only complaint I have though—the rest of Tokyo Gore Police runs like a well-oiled (if that oil were blood…) machine.
TGP succeeds whenever Ruka is required to fight an engineer, and director-slash-FX wizard Yoshihiro Nishimura understands this implicitly. In the film's early stages, there's some kind of crazy gross gore moment happening roughly every three minutes. Limbs are sliced off, heads removed, eyes plucked, castrations…you name it, it's in here somewhere. Nishimura never forgets that one of the three words of the title is "gore" and as such the film delivers so much carnage and destruction that it's right up there with Jackson's Dead Alive and the oeuvre of Olaf Ittenbach when it comes to the most splattery films ever made.
What sets Nishimura's film apart from Ittenbach is that Nishimura seems to be genuinely creative. The gore is thick in TGP, but it's also fairly inventive. There are tons of standard gore gags littered throughout the film (with this much dismemberment, it's a given) but then there are occasions where Nishimura really strives to do something new—take for instance the woman engineer who has the entire lower half of her body turn into crocodile jaws or the guy who develops a giant penis cannon—and the movie manages to surprise you with its inventiveness.
Complementing the gore in TGP is a wacky sense of humor. The film boasts numerous public service advertisements that are genuinely funny and creative. There's a "don't' commit hara-kiri" ad, a great piece on a new Wii game that allows the whole family to murder people right from their own living room, and commercials for fashionable wrist-slicers. If that weren't enough, the film boasts a Battle Royale-styled Japanese girl who intrudes at various interludes to cheer the police on in their mission to eradicate the engineer plague. All in all, the humor provides a nice counterbalance to all the gory mayhem. This is one of the few gore comedies to get the balance right.
If nothing else, Tokyo Gore Police proves that you can make a film that pays homage to other movies yet still maintain an identity of your own while doing it. The title tells you pretty much everything you need to know on this one—if you love quirky Japanese gore flicks, this is well worth your time. It gory and funny and quite possibly one of the best cult films we'll see all year.
From the producers of "Machine Girl" and "Death Trance" comes a film that is so outrageously bizarre, full of "pink" violence, blood-splattering horror effects, TRULY bizarre characters, that will definitely make some people stop the film, others will cheer, but no one can deny that the film is brilliant in a very different and original way. If you think you are ready for "TOKYO GORE POLICE" then you have another think coming. Once you see the film's … more
I'm a 36-year-old film critic who specializes in Horror and Cult Cinema as well as Asian films. I spent two seasons as The Horror Geek on Comedy Central's pop-culture quiz show, Beat the Geeks. I'm also … more
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Tokyo Gore Police is a 2008 Japanese gore film. The film was directed by Yoshihiro Nishimura and stars Eihi Shiina as Ruka, a vengeful police officer.
Tokyo Gore Police was released to several film festivals in North America. It received generally positive reviews, noting that Tokyo Gore Police lives up to the film's title, by being gory, perverse and bizarre.