One of the most popular programming track at the Philadelphia Film Festival has been the genre-specific Danger After Dark. This year, it has been spun-off into its own mini-festival. We’ll be presenting reviews from some its offerings over the next few days.
Sisters Yoshie (Kiguchi Aya) and Kikuei (Hasabe Hitomi) are recruited by the handsome Hikaru (Takumi Saito) away from Kikuei’s training as a Geisha to join his ranks of female assassins. Although Kikuei was always the favored of the two growing up, Yoshie is suddenly the one who excels at the training they receive. Jealous at the turn of attention away from her, Kikuei volunteers to have weapons surgically implanted in her body. Not to be outdone, Yoshie also gets a weaponized upgrade and the two are soon set out on mission to assassinate targets selected by Hikaru and his insane father, business tycoon Kageno Taro (Shigaki Taro). But then Yoshie has an encounter that makes her question Hikaru and Taro’s plans and brings her into direct combat with her sister.
RoboGeisha is another entry in that off beat Japanese mashup of action, horror and comedy films and it shares some creative DNA with some of the best the genre has to offer. Director Noboru Iguchi has The Machine Girl, probably one of the best of the lot, on his resume, while special effects director Yoshihiro Nishimura served the same function on Tokyo Gore Police. Unfortunately, while diverting, RoboGeisha never comes close to the level of entertainment that the best of these movies have to offer.
This is frustrating as all the proper elements for a fun film seem to be in place. There are beautiful women, weird villains and characters undergoing strange transformations, usually by having weapons surgically attached to their bodies. There are crazy and inventive action scenes and copious amounts of fake blood being splashed about. No idea is considered to gonzo to use. In fact, the more gonzo the better, such as the evil henchwomen who shoot acid lactation (“Breast Milk From Hell!”) from their bikini tops or the Japanese feudal castle that transforms in to a giant walking robot. But for all the energy put into the film, these elements never really gel together.
Part of the problem stems from the fact that even by the standards of the genre, RoboGeisha feels exceptionally low budget, with corners cut wherever possible. This wouldn’t be a detraction if the filmmakers coped to the fact and maybe even acknowledged it in some way. Disappointingly, much of the blood splatter from the sword and gun play is achieved through CGI and badly at that.
There are lots of things in the film’s screenplay that don’t hold up to a modicum of scrutiny. While the villain’s plan for using beautiful women to eliminate his enemies would probably feel at home in the heyday of the Bond franchise, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in his grander scheme. Why go through the trouble of individual murders when your big plan is to destroy (and presumably in the process kill all the residents of) Japan? But even in the best of these films script logic doesn’t factor into these things too much, though if the on-screen craziness isn’t enough to distract you from making these realizations while watching the film, something is wrong.
Although it has been going strong for a couple of years now, this wave of indie action/horror/comedy filmmaking still has some inventive life in it. There are a number of good examples out there for people new to the genre to try, but RoboGeisha is probably for diehard fans only.