Sometimes all is revealed in a title and in regards to genre-bender shocker Tokyo Gore Police (2008) it clearly is! Directed by Yoshihiro Nishimura, the visual effects guru behind cult hit The Machine Girl (2008), TGP is the latest grisly bastardised offering of blood soaked extreme cinema to come from Japan. Feauturing the beautiful Eihi Shiina (Asami from Audition) as the lead protagonist, if possible, imagine the mindless frantic action of Shoot Em Up (2007) mixed with the OTT gore of Peter Jackson’s Braindead(1992) with a splash of Cronenberg body horror to boot, and you only begin to partially grasp the visual insanity of TGP.
Set in an anarchic futuristic Tokyo, the sadistic privatised police force are engaged in a violent day-to-day battle with shape-shifting mutants known as ‘Engineers’ (virus ridden murderous beings who possess the ability to transform their injuries into some form of bizarre weaponry when wounded). Ruka (Eihi Shiina) an operative within this new police force, attempts to capture The Key Man (Itsuji Itao),the creator of this viral gene, and cleanse the streets of these rabid beasts; all while attempting to unravel the mystery of her father‘s assassination. As she and The Key Man continue to cross paths, similarities in their respective quests become apparent and both discover they may in actual fact be hunting a common foe.
A remake of his acclaimed independent debut Anatomia Extinction (1995), the plot of Nishimura’s TGP is clearly influenced by that of Blade Runner (1982). However narrative or character development is not the primary concern of the film, nor does it ever profess to be. With a background in special effects, Nishimura’s focus is primarily on detailing extreme visuals in all their gory glory. The influence of body horror that dominated David Cronenberg’s early work is clearly apparent. The rate at which bodies morph and mutate is frenetic to say the least, not forgetting the endless bloody spray of geysering arteries and amputated limbs. From the opening sequence where a head graphically explodes which is quickly followed by our introduction to the mutating ‘Engineers’, it is clear to see that this will be an unrelenting and visceral cinematic experience. With such a preoccupation on over-the-top violence, this is undoubtedly where the film excels. The film successfully merges bizarre extreme violence and inventive gore filled action sequences with laugh-out-loud moments of humour. While very gruesome, the effects are never intended to be realistic and as a result the audience are encouraged to not shy away from the events on-screen. It is not that type of horror film, and the director wants the audience to watch and soak themselves in every moment of bloody visual lunacy. The deliberately low budget effects, although crass, have an undeniably likeable charm that only adds to the humour of the film. Furthermore the sombre visage of Ruka’s face is in constant juxtaposition with the comically excessive violence, which in turn also manages to heighten the film’s humour. As the film progresses the splattering action and body horror becomes more inventive, more extreme and more ridiculous; most of which really has to be seen to be believed. At one point we are taken to the depths of a depraved underground fetish club for a very VERY acquired taste; a place that only Takeshi Miike’s twisted filmic psyche could fully appreciate. While an undoubtedly bizarre and unsettling sequence, the twisted humour compels the audience to keep watching. Like a rabbit caught in the headlights of an oncoming truck, we are forced (and more than likely want) to keep viewing just to see how far can this film can actually go. And boy does it go…..!!
However while the extreme blood flow is on the whole entertaining, the film does suffer slightly from its length. At 120minutes it becomes slightly tiresome through its second act, with the only engaging factor being the increasing body count and insanity of the film’s violence. TGP also disappoints through its limp and misguided attempts at presenting a deeper social critique. While it does not intend on being a meaningful critical exploration on modern society by any means, one can not help but feel there is hint of a social commentary to the film’s dark bloody underbelly (a frequent thematic preoccupation of Asian cinema). As the police struggle to deal with ‘Engineers’ they resort to mindless acts of random violence and execute anyone who struggles or protests. There is an undeniable correlation between the humans and the mutants, which in turn appears as an attempt to question the morality of modern man. However unlike the work of Takeshi Miike where society and the family circle are often effectively scrutinised through the gross and the extreme, TGP falls short as a result of its deliberate tongue in cheek comedy. It is the extent of the outrageous acts of violence and their low budget technical execution that ultimately detracts from any serious thematic discussions. How can a film with an enormous mutated penis cannon (yes THAT!!) act as an effective commentary on the deterioration of society’s moral fabric and humanity’s desensitisation to violence? The violence is just too extreme, and deliberately humorous, for the audience to take any moral standpoint seriously. The attempted social commentary continues through the PSAs and advertisements which appear sporadically throughout the narrative, echoing the work of Paul Verhoeven. One showcases the latest must-have fashion accessory for self-harming schoolgirls, while another details a Wii inspired device that allows the entire family to torture and execute a prisoner from the comfort of their living room. While undoubtedly hilarious to watch, such examples again fail to act as an effective social satire due to their extreme humour. Their frequent repeated inclusion slightly disjoints the film and as a result it looses its focus and even sinks into moments of tedium. When you are bombarred with so much unrelentless violence and gore any lull in action or attempts at a cultural critique is unwelcome and feels misplaced.
I wouldn‘t profess to be a fan of extreme or shock cinema; I find most of it tedious, boring and actually not that shocking. TGP inevitably falls into a ‘love it or hate it’ bracket and to be honest I unexpectantly loved it. Excuse the film’s length and attempts to raise a satirical social discussion, which is unquestionably better tackled in films such as Battle Royale (2000) or Visitor Q (2001). The key is to watch this film for what it truely is; a highly enjoyable OTT romp of crazed violence and cheap visual effects that will leave you baffled but with more than a few belly-aches and tears of laughter along the way. Fans of the horror and sci-fi genres will also take pleasure in recognising the multitude of filmic influences and citations throughout, that while obvious, never detract from the film’s own identity. With its tongue always firmly within its cheek and saturated with inventive gut wrenching ultra-violence, Tokyo Gore Police is a certified cult hit that really has to be seen to be believed. While watching it I couldn’t help but feel this is the ‘Grindhouse’ experience that Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez wish they had the (disemboweled) guts to make!