Monday, February 16, 2009

Chanbara Beauty: The Movie

Before I start, I should mention that I’ve never even heard of, let alone played, the videogame that this movie is based on. On the whole, I doubt it makes much difference, but I’m willing to concede that some of the niggling little complaints I may have about Chanbara Beauty might stem from the original source material. Caveat delivered. On with the show…

What can you say about a movie that is stuffed to the seams with zombies; a bikini-clad assassin with a sword; a leather clad biker babe with a gun; zombies; an evil, sword-wielding hench-girl in school uniform; buckets of blood and gore, zombies; a sadistic mad scientist bent on world domination; and zombies?

Did I mention zombies? And we aren't talking about yer flaccid, shuffling western zombies either. These bastards can move...

It’s the near future, and science has created a process by which the dead return to life as flesh eating zombies (why this is desirable process is never explained, natch). Aya (a young assassin who for some reason has adopted the costume of a red bikini complimented by a white feather boa and cowboy hat) is searching for her younger sister, who has thrown in with the evil scientist. She and her sidekick team up with Reiko, the aforementioned biker-babe who is seeking revenge on the scientist. The fat, jovial sidekick is also seeking his younger sister, kidnapped by the same evil scientist. The plot is pretty much by the numbers—get to the scientist’s hideout, slaughter their way through the zombies, and kill the madman, followed by the final confrontation between the sisters.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the movie works best when it’s in non-stop action mode. On the rare occasions when it pauses for exposition or “character development”, the movie seems very forced and awkward, but once the zombies appear and the severed limbs start flying, hold on to your popcorn! The back story of the Aya and her sister is told adequately through flashbacks, but doesn’t really add anything to the story except provide an excuse for their final showdown.

The showdown takes up the final 15 minutes, and while it starts out fine, it quickly lapses into the two girls grimacing at each other and screaming “Aaaaiieeeee!” while colourful special effects swirl around them. I’m sure this is where the movie is most influenced by it’s original source, and certainly the special effects are pretty to look at, but 15 minutes of it is frankly too long.

That being said, Chanbara Beauty provides enough thrills and eye-candy to pass a pleasantly mindless hour and a half or so.

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