Yo-Yo Girl Cop Review
Kenta Fukasaku's efforts on Battle Royale 2 have been criticised strongly, largely I feel because of the name he shares with his father. Although the film is not a patch on the first movie, it is not that different in quality from some of his father's later movies which were a little erratic from my point of view. If anything, I felt that Battle Royale 2 was simply overambitious in the politics it espoused, in attempting to take Fukasaku senior's central theme of the young exploited by the old and make it the underlying theme of the post 9-11 world.
Since his directorial debut, Kenta has picked himself off the critical canvas, dusted himself off, and began a kind of apprenticeship in genre movies not unlike the one the one his father served. Concentrating on directing rather than writing, junior has taken on entertaining projects like the one on review here, yet another take on the Sukeban Deka comic books. The schoolgirl agent who must save the world from evil hidden in secondary schools has been the basis for entertaining action in the cinema and on TV, and this version even nods to the past by having the central character be the daughter of a previous agent and giving her a fatherly M type figure in Riki Takeuchi, sporting the kind of limp he gave others in Miike's Fudoh.
Seemingly shot during an electricity strike and a fog pandemic, this is an uneven murky movie mixing teen angst and kickass action. The Politics are those of youthful rebellion and the basic battle of good against evil is between the cool bullies and the dorky do gooders. There is topicality with the references to teen suicide and Kenta's father would have been proud with his son's continuation of his theme about desperate and betrayed youth.
Of the complete film, the opening sequence works best with the new Saki Asamiya introduced in a holding cell in the USA. Blackmailed into following in her mum's footsteps, our heroine cracks a few heads before giving in to the call of her native Japan. Saki is soon issued with her new uniform and martial arts yo yo which she conspicuously fails to control. Once Saki enters the school where the world shattering mayhem is situated, the action goes backward and some poor teen romance overwhelms interesting ideas and inconsistent execution.
The rest of the drama is centred on Saki finding out just who is behind the suicide bombings of depressed students, then fancying the pants off them, and finally lost in a romantic conundrum - duty or passion, friends or lovers. The pace picks up for the final act of showdowns and comeuppance, but the action is not stylish or satisfying enough and the end result is a let down when compared with earlier incarnations of the story.
It is far from bad though and if you are more indulgent with the somewhat semi-soppy lead then you will get more from the film than I did. The restrained treatment of violence and the consumer friendly message meant that I saw a much more generic product than I would have hoped for with Fukasaku junior. A bit like his debut, it kinda disappoints after a beginning which is genuinely shocking and moving, by getting lost in teenie soap nonsense. This might be because the director understands his teenage and presumably female audience better than I do, but I would like to believe that the chosen demographic may just want a bit more than adolescent whimsy.
Yo Yo Girl Cop is far from poor, and there is evidence, at least in moments, that talent can run in families.
Transfer and Sound
Oh, the horror. This looks pretty poor with appalling contrast and sharpness and simple lack of detail. Flesh tones look pale and colours are smeared, with artefacts, combing and motion shake clearly visible throughout. The film is not meant to look perfect, it seems to have been shot on HD video but the same running time as the NTSC version suggest we have another standards conversion and a bad one at that.
Both of the audio tracks included here lack impact. The 5.1 mix seems quite muted in the action sequences and the surround effect is more atmospheric rather than directional with good speaker coverage but no real effort to provide 3-D sound. The optional English subs use perfectly good grammar with rare mistypes.
Discs and Special Features
The intended demographic for this film becomes more obvious through the special features with lots of time given over to the pop star lead and her young co stars being endlessly polite and rather dim about pretending to be different to their real selves(that's what "acting" means girls, get used to it). The making of featurette is narrated in a rather overexcited fashion and it is staggeringly dull. Watching it, everyone is so nice that an old cynic like myself was left wondering whether these people are not really androids programmed to compliment each other.
The two press conferences are much the same with one focusing on the main young cast all in costume, and the second including the older cast and the director. Fukasaku is very quietly spoken and the sum of human knowledge is not really greater after listening to everyone here. A joint interview which unites the new and old Saki Asamiyas follows, and finally we get the whole cast interviewed along with the director. The most interesting point of all of this was Riki Takeuchi's hat hair, I kid you not as at one point Fukasaku actually drifts off into talking about the weather.
Entertaining and deliberately minor, this UK release is disappointing as a transfer and the mountain of extras are banal. Worth a rental if you liked earlier versions of the story....