Monday, September 17, 2012

Sex and Fury

This movie is a fucking masterpiece. I am not exaggerating. Sex and Fury is one of my all-time favorite films. I have never watched it with anyone whose mind was not utterly and completely blown.

Sex and Fury is a period piece, set in Tokyo circa 1905, the conflicted Meiji period. (Also the setting of Jet Li's Once Upon a Time in China movies.) Like many martial arts movies, it begins with a "they killed my family/master/dog and now i will spend the next decade-plus training for my eventual vengeance" bit. In this case, our heroine's police detective father is suddenly murdered (with horrible Burroughs-esque ripping sounds), leaving behind several playing cards elaborately decorated with a boar, a deer and a butterfly.

After some psychedelic opening credits -- our now-grown, tattooed and katana-wielding heroine Ocho, posing amidst the graphics, vaguely like James Bond and Bond Girl rolled into one. Then the movie proper begins, with a pallsy meeting between the new Yakuza President (as in he is a Yakuza and the President), local politicians and a few roundeye devils. Suddenly, a guy in a Dracula cape and emo-manga bangs tries to stab Yakuza President (y'know, that would be a good band name) and flees into a maze of streets. He is hidden by Ocho, who pickpockets a locket from him ("Force of habit.") with a sepia-toned photo of a fetching brunette lass inside.

On to the gambling house. A man is caught cheating at cards, followed by brawling and stabbing. The cheater confesses to Ocho (through a mouthful of blood) that he did it to buy his sister's freedom from a whorehouse. He entrusts Ocho with the money to free her but, hell, our girl could probably handle this shit without cash.

Next follows one of the film's great set pieces: The swordfight in the snow. Ocho is bathing when she is attacked by dozens of thugs; without missing a beat or putting on any clothes, she grabs a sword and dispatches them, the bloody battle crashing through the house out into the snow. It is one of the most stunning action sequences ever. Let me reiterate: It is snowing, she is naked and slicing Yakuza in half like blood is worth money and she intends to outfit herself in Prada from panties to earmuffs.

But, back to the plot! To win the girl's freedom, Ocho must play against a "western female gambler" at a mansion called the Guinness. The gambling lady is the one whose picture had been in Manga Bangs' locket and none other than Christina Lindberg, whom the truly erudite amongst you may recognize as the heroine of  Eurosleaze sex n' violence revenge flick They Call Her One Eye aka Thriller, A Cruel Picture. She plays a dancer/gambler/spy who dresses as Cinderella -- her first entrance is descending a staircase in hoopskirts, ringlets and tiara. Although she spends most of the film naked, when she is wearing clothes, it's straight-up Disney Princess.

The ladies play their game but are interrupted by Manga Bangs who's trying to stab someone again and Christina wants to shoot him, but is bewildered by flashbacks of the Cinemax After Dark flick the two of them apparently made together -- by the time she regains her senses, a bunch of Ninjas and Gilbert & Sullivan policemen are fighting in the ballroom, so they go back to their cards. Did i mention that it's 1905 and they have multicolored plastic poker chips?

So Ocho wins the game, but the guy decides to rape little sister before turning her over. Ocho finds the girl sobbing and talks her out of suicide but, man she is pissed. She is even more pissed when the girl adds that the man had a deer tattoo on his back -- just like one of the guys who killed Ocho's dad. Oh, a motherfucker is going to pay!

Sex and Fury is a stylish, action-packed picture, but it does have a few more plot twists than it can use. Suffice to say that once Ocho finds one of the bastards she needs to kill, the others are not far away. But it won't be easy. Not with the platoon of switchblade-wielding nuns in her way.  Or the bizarro psychedelic-blasphemous torture sequence. Not to mention the enmeshed political intrigue of several nations that somehow involves far-right President Yakuza, some Jack the Ripper-mustached guy who is Christina Lindberg's boss and wronged lefty Manga Bangs. And an Opium War. It's complicated. We also do tend to stop dead for more softcore sexytime. And some rather heavy-handed comedy bits. And a Romeo and Juliet-meets-Anna Karenina death scene (among many other death scenes). But did i mention the magic lantern light show? The fringed buckskin bikini? The poisoned lube?

Reiko Ike is remarkable as Ocho, a warrior of singular purpose and implacable wrath. She hacks through dozens of opponents -- swinging her blade through crowds that disintegrate into dismembered limbs and puddles of tempera-paint stage blood. By the end, entire gangs flee, knowing that all you can do is try to run because there is simply no stopping her.

If you see just one female martial arts exploitation vengeance flick -- and there are many, thank our lucky stars -- make it Sex and Fury. Even if you're not a fan of the Pinky Violence genre, it does not disappoint.

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