Tôkyô Zankoku Keisatsu
“She is the only actress in the world who can look so beautiful just standing in the midst of a gushing spray of blood.”–Yoshihiro Nishimura on Eihi Shiina
“I wouldn’t say I liked being covered in blood… [but] I really love the surrealism and beauty of these scenes, while I’m getting covered in blood which is spurting out everywhere.”–Eihi Shiina
DIRECTED BY: Yoshihiro Nishimura
FEATURING: Eihi Shiina, Yukihide Benny, Itsuji Itao
PLOT: Mutant serial killers known as “Engineers,” who sprout spontaneous bioweapons when wounded, are terrorizing Tokyo. Ruka, a sword-wielding loner addicted to cutting herself, is the star officer of the privatized Tokyo Police Corporation and the best Engineer-hunter on the force. As she investigates the Key Man, the human monster who is creating the Engineers, Ruka finds that secrets buried in her past may influence the future direction of her police career…
- Although he made short films as early as 1995, Yoshihiro Nishimura made a living early in his career supervising gory special effects and makeup for movies like Rubber’s Lover (1996), Suicide Club (2001), and Meatball Machine (2005).
- Tokyo Gore Police was a huge success, and following right on the heels of 2008’s The Machine Girl (for which Nishimura did the effects), it helped popularize the modern Japanese splatterpunk movement.
- The character of the Key Man had shown up in Nishimura’s 55-minute 1995 experimental film Anatomia Extinction.
- Nishimura cites the paintings of Salvador Dali as a key influence on his design style.
- Tokyo Gore Police was co-produced by Nikkatsu, the studio infamous for firing auteur Seijun Suzuki in the 1960s because his films were too weird.
- Fellow Nikkatsu directors Noboru Iguchi (Robogeisha) and Yûdai Yamaguchi (Meatball Machine) directed the television commercial parodies.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: Though many people may be stuck on the genitalia-related mutations (penis cannon, crocodile maw vagina), I believe the quadruple amputee gimp dog lady (whose missing limbs can be fitted with blades or automatic weapons) is the movie’s most bizarre creation. Because her existence is casually revealed without comment or explanation, as a natural part of Tokyo Gore Police‘s unnatural world, in many ways it’s also the most perverse element.
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Tokyo Gore Police earns its spot on the List as the apex of an entire genre of movies: the gory Japanese biohorror B-movie built around absurd violence and crazy mutant creatures. With its bordello of freaks, fountains of blood spurting from decapitated heads, and sick jokes at the expense of our fragile human anatomy, Tokyo Gore Police ticks off all the splatterpunk boxes; heck, it helped draw the boxes. Tokyo Gore Police found the top and easily vaulted over it, and try as they might no one has been able to raise the bad-taste bar—yet. As a bonus, this movie provides something you don’t see in its sillier imitators: a layer of nihilistic social satire and a nightmarish sense of urban despair.
American trailer for Tokyo Gore Police
COMMENTS: While David Cronenberg explored the plasticity of the human body in the West as early as 1983, transforming our very television screens into masses of veiny fingers, it was the Japanese who really hailed the New Flesh. Shinya Tsukamoto‘s Tetsuo: The Iron Man—a tale of painful body metamorphosis, including a protagonist whose penis painfully transforms into a rotating drill bit—cast a long shadow over the Japanese film industry. Though that surreal dehumanization allegory was made for the underground crowd, it wasn’t just the art school crowd that took note. B-movie shockmeisters recognized the inherent entertainment value of mutating genitalia and general body weirdness, and eventually mixed it with their trusty traditional staple—arterial spray—to create an intoxicating new brew. Through a few decades of evolution, the underground cyberpunks became the commercial splatterpunks.
It would take a 41-year old effects artist to perfect this mutation from niche art films to profitable exploitation movies. Yoshihiro Nishimura had made a career creating grotesque latex monsters and spurting blood effects, delivering gore on a budget for dozens of Japanese films, from the cyberpunk Rubber’s Lover to the splatterpunk Machine Girl. Although he had directed three short, noncommercial films—Anatomia Extinction (which marked the first appearance of Tokyo Gore Police‘s villain), Speakerman: The Boo (a sensitive story about a creature with a speaker for a head who loses his job as a human alarm system when a mine closes down) and the unspeakably weird, ethnically offensive music video Meatball Machine: Reject of Death—this was his first feature film. Surprisingly, in his first turn at bat in the majors, Nishimura hits a home run. Tokyo Gore Police is the apex of this disreputable splatter subgenre: it delivers all of the bloody geekery exploitation audiences demand, but washes its nocturnal canvas in a neon surrealism that elevates the picture above its seedy origins.
Tokyo Gore Police‘s main appeal lies, obviously and unashamedly, in its gory set pieces and freak show moments. The notion of creatures who spontaneously mutate when wounded enabled Nishimura to throw out the anatomical rule book and indulge his wildest morphological fantasies. A man with a chainsaw arm is freaky, but you’ve seen it before. What you probably haven’t seen before is a man with the top half of his skull missing and gun barrels for eyes, another man with a cannon for a phallus, a snail-woman stripper, or a woman with sawtoothed crocodile jaws for legs. Not to mention the nightmarish human chair, who you think could have wandered off the pages of one of Salvador Dali’s private sketchbooks—until it starts soaking the gawking punk crowd in sickly greenish yellow urine, and you remember that you’re in a modern Japanese exploitation movie.
Creature design is half the grossout battle, and spurting fluids are the other half. Nishimura’s stage blood is completely inhuman: the color and consistency of cherry Kool-Aid, watery, and available in an infinite supply. A human (or mutant) body holds enough of the stuff to soak an alleyway, so in Nishimura’s Tokyo you’d better carry an umbrella with you to avoid being drenched if you plan to slice off a couple of human hands. Mutant nipples, naturally, spurt caustic lime-green acid capable of melting the skin off a schoolgirl and turning her into a quivering bloody skeleton. The battle scenes defy the logic of physics and biology, as well as plain old logic. A scientist’s weapon of choice is a Gatling gun loaded with human fists. Death has no sting here; dismemberment is a big joke.
As absurd as the gory carnage is, it can at times make you squirm, and Nishimura goes to even darker places and indulges in bitter black humor. The heroine, Ruka, has an inherited penchant for self-mutilation; before a big battle, she slashes her wrist with a knife in grisly detail. This is not “fun” violence, but a reminder of the painful real world on which this cartoonish caricature of modern Japan is based. A series of cynically ultraviolent commercials recurring throughout the film remind us that casual acceptance of human suffering may not be the sign of a healthy society. The privatized police force Ruka works for executes criminals in their ad spots; afterwards, they join admiring youngsters in playing soccer with his severed head. An anti-suicide PSA features a man graphically disemboweling himself while his polka dot faced ghost laments his fate. The very next commercial we see advertises “cute” razor blades aimed at the schoolgirl cutter demographic (“it doesn’t even hurt that much!” shouts one as she kicks up her heels in joy). Rather than reformist, the satire here is resigned: this is the world we live in, it says. We may not like it, but we can laugh at it. That dark edge is something that’s missing from most works in this genre, which focus on the absurdist violence as if it were a Tom and Jerry show for adults, with no sting of cruelty attached.
The other area in which Nishimura departs from his compatriots is in his judicious use of surreal techniques, which spice up Tokyo Gore Police without overpowering the B-movie flavor. As an effects man Nishimura worked with artistically inclined auteurs Shojin Fukui and Shion Sono, and their surrealist proclivities must have rubbed off on him. The storytelling is often disjointed; a flashback will be followed by a scene involving new characters which will segue into one of the fake ads before the movie circles back to the main plotline. Even omitting necessary-to-the-plot scenes like the bordello of freaks, wonderfully odd moments proliferate. The police corporation dispatcher is a perky blond in fishnet stockings who directs cops to the scenes of grisly crimes with the “go team!” enthusiasm of a cheerleader. Ruka watches a punk girl with a pierced lip on the subway eating living grubs from a tin. A shot of the villain, cackling gleefully with his gun barrel eyes silhouetted against a giant pink moon, pops up for no obvious reason. A man gets high by drawing a picture of a syringe on his arm with a ballpoint pen. One of the victims is a pinhead in blackface. Jumble these moments together with the regular plot, which was already well whacked-out, interspersed with the grim commercial parodies, and you end up with a very strange movie indeed.
Nishimura directs Tokyo Gore Police with abandon, like a man who has stored up a lifetime of ideas and suspects this may be his only chance to get them in front of an audience. The material is often juvenile, but it’s delivered with an infectious passion and a piquant weirdness. It’s violent and gory enough to delight a teenage boy looking for something “awesome,” but its still offbeat and stimulating enough to keep the interest of adults who haven’t yet lost their old punk spirit. Weirder splatterpunk efforts may come along down the line, but Tokyo Gore Police will always stand as a strange moment in time when the alienated art-house influences of the cyperpunks collided with the splattery aesthetics of the exploitation industry, creating a mutant cinematic hybrid that’s a lot stranger than a girl with a lobster claw for an arm.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“…there’s insanity in this film that you generally don’t see outside of REALLY strange anime flicks. I mean like mutated penis cannons and a transformation that can only be described as vaginaphibious. Not a movie for granny, basically.”–Scott Weinberg, FEAR.net (contemporaneous)
“… quite possibly the weirdest, wildest splatterfest ever to come out of Japan.”–Jovanka Vuckovic, Rue Morgue Magazine (contemporaneous)
IMDB LINK: Tokyo Gore Police (2008)
OTHER LINKS OF INTEREST:
An Interview with TOKYO GORE POLICE director Yoshihiro Nishamura – 2008 interview with the director by Rodney Perkins of Twitch conducted at Fantastic Fest
Tokyo Gore Police – Asian Wiki – Links to cast and crew bios, stills and posters, and miscellaneous information
DVD INFO: The 2009 DVD (buy) comes from Tokyo Shock. The only extras are a special five-minute trailer and trailers for four other Tokyo Shock-distributed titles. The disc allows you to view the movie in Japanese with subtitles, or in an English dubbed version (the voice acting is not bad). In 2010, they released a special edition (dubbed Tokyo Gore Police One Point Five) (buy) with a bonus disc: a set of short films promising to “extend the TOKYO GORE POLICE cinematic experience.” We weren’t able to locate any information on the bonus contents—even the outlets that reviewed the 1.5 release skipped reporting on them—leading us to conclude they are inconsequential.
The Blu-ray (buy) was released in 2011 with the same features as the single disc version (although due to extreme sloppiness, the Blu-ray box cover inaccurately repeats the copy from the 2-disc special edition—there’s only one disc here, without the advertized bonus features).
An on-demand digital version is available from the usual sources, including Amazon (rent on-demand).
(This movie was nominated for review by “Very Serious Sam” who called it “the wierdest movie i ever seen!!!” Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)