There’s truth in advertising and then there’s “Tokyo Gore Police.” It’s a movie so gory, violent and outrageous, so thoroughly soaked in blood and covered in thick coating of fleshy-bits and bone matter that simply putting “gore” in the title doesn’t quite cut it. In fact, the proverbial 1,000 monkeys at 1,000 typewriters could spend 1,000 years filling 1,000 thesauruses with synonyms for “gore”, “blood”, “disembowelment” and so on and still not have enough words to describe “Tokyo Gore Police.” There is so much gore in “Tokyo Gore Police” that someone floats around on a giant spewing, splattering cloud of gore. Yes, it’s that excessive—and, thankfully, it’s good, too.
In the Tokyo of the future, the police force has been privatized and the armor-clad cops have traded in “to serve and protect” for “to sever and impale” as a policing motto. But even deadlier than the cops are the “engineers,” psychotic genetically mutated killers whose bodies can morph into grotesque weapons. They’re so dangerous that a special team of cops has been created to hunt down and kill engineers. Chief among the hunters is Ruka (Eihi Shiina, best known as the piano-wire-wielding femme fatale in Takashi Miike’s “Audition”), a demure young lass with a penchant for cutting herself with a utility knife and slicing bad guys in half with her samurai sword.
But Ruka herself is being hunted by the Key Man (Itsuji Itao), the mad scientist responsible for creating the engineers. As Key Man’s creations run riot throughout the city, slaughtering prostitutes, gangsters and regular folks with gleeful abandon, Ruka’s investigation leads her to confront dark secrets about her own past—and a realization that she may have more in common with the Key Man and his engineers than with her police brethren.
First-time director Yoshihiro Nishimura was the brains behind the FX for “The Machine Girl,” and much of the same creative team reunites for “Tokyo Gore Police.” As a director (and co-screenwriter), Nishimura is pretty good. His camera work is adept, and the story, written in collaboration with Kengo Kaji and Sayako Nakoshi, works in some clever moments amidst all the flayed flesh and decadent depravity. The fake commercials intercut throughout the movie—pro-police privatization propaganda, ads for designer suicide products and the best sword for committing hara kari—echo Paul Verhoven’s satirical jabs a crass consumerism in “Robocop”, and all the morphing body parts and carved up corpses owe a clear debt to David Cronenberg and H.G. Lewis.
But Nishimura excels when it comes to the effects, and “Tokyo Gore Police” is an unrestrained spectacular of deformed appendages, gaping stab wounds and high-pressure sprays of blood. Nowhere are Nishimura skills on better display than an extended scene in an underground fetish club, where the flesh of the dancing girls has been crudely hammered into grotesque shapes. One girl has become a snail, another has a cock for a nose, and, in a bit that would make Cronenberg both proud and disgusted, one chick has been turned into a chair. Yup, that’s right—a living (well, breathing, at least) chair, one that douses the rapt audience in a golden shower. And almost unbelievably, “Tokyo Gore Police” manages to get even more shocking after that. Penis guns, acid-spewing boobs, quadruple-amputees in gimp outfits—there is no twisted avenue “Tokyo Gore Police” won’t explore, and just as you think it can’t get any weirder, it does.
The engineers themselves are similarly awesome. The engineer featured in the movie’s opening has a fairly humdrum mutant chainsaw arm, but as the movie progresses, one engineer grows a pair of bone-fragment-shooting guns out of his exposed brain and another’s lower-body morphs into a snarling, hungry vagina-monster. The fight scenes between Ruka and the various engineers are a bloody ballet, and stunt coordinator Tak Sakaguchi’s battle scenes are interesting enough on their own without the added attraction of all the exploding heads.
But man, those exploding heads sure are fun, and “Tokyo Gore Police” has an earnest sense of humor and a manic charm about it that keeps all the gore firmly on the silly side. If there’s any drawback, it’s that the last half of the movie feels a little too much like a video game, with a series of “final showdowns” between Ruka and some bad guys that throws the rest of the movie’s leisurely pace out of whack. The cast’s acting abilities aren’t anything to write home about, but hey, when penis guns and vagina-monsters are running amok, a convincing display of everyday human emotions is the last thing viewers are looking for. But at the same time, the recent stories coming out of Japan about mass suicides of young people organized over the internet gives “Tokyo Gore Police” an uncomfortable sort of relevance. There’s some real anxiety among all the “Oh God, did I just see that?” moments, and the reality of a death-obsessed subculture on the brink of oblivion is scarier than any freak in the film. “Tokyo Gore Police” takes the audience all the way to the edge and leaves us there with a wink, a smile and blood all over the camera lens.