When this tenth entry in the long running Zero Woman series begins, a foxy prisoner named Yuki (Sasa Hanada) is making out in her cell with another equally foxy prisoner. Their carnal rendezvous proves to be an effective distraction and before you know it, the guard is dead and Yuki is on the run. Once she's free, she's able to set about her business, which involves luring various criminal men to a bedroom setting where she's able to bump uglies with them before bumping them off entirely.
Enter Rei (Atsuko Miura), an agent for the top secret Division 0, a covert section of the Japanese police force. She's also quite fetching as she runs around in her red overcoat shooting down bad guys. A cop catches Rei in the act and suspects that she's some sort of nefarious assassin type. Of course, he begins trailing her, trying to find out who she really is and what Division 0 is all about, but he finds very few answers. Rei, when not getting it on with her new cop friend, spends the rest of the film trying to catch Yuki before she can take another victim...
Zero Woman R may sound like it has all the right ingredients for a fun slice of fast and cheap pinky violence, but sadly those ingredients don't really amount to much. Despite the fact that the film runs just over seventy minutes, it feels slow and padded and while packing five sex scenes into a short feature such as this is the norm for the genre, generally they're at least erotic and/or kinky enough to be interesting. Despite a bit of violence mixed into the second sex scene and a nice girl on girl intro, the sex in this picture is generally passionless and not particularly interesting (and this is in spite of some very attractive actresses filling out the cast). Had director Fujiwara put the same kind of care into shooting these scenes as some of his predecessors had, the film could have been considerably more interesting in that department.
So with the sex more or less written off, can the action and violence save the film? Nope, they fare worse than the kinky content does. With a few minor exceptions, almost all of the carnage takes place off screen. A perfect example, and one that happens more than a few times throughout the duration of the picture, is that any time a character shoots another one, we see no impact - they just sort of fall off to the side, or the barrel will be framed at the side, to infer that someone has been shot. The hand to hand combat is similarly uninspired, though the final showdown is at least a little bit more creative than the hour that leads up to it.
Performance wise, everyone is more or less sleepwalking their way through the film. Atsuko Miura is certainly a beauty to look at (she bares a resemblance to Meiko Kaji of the Female Convict Scorpion films) but she has very little charisma or screen presence. When you compare her to the immortal Miki Sugimoto, the first actress to play the part way back in 1974, there's really no contest. Sugimoto's icy cold stare and the rage she was able to hide just below the surface made her character interesting, while Miura simply makes her way through the picture with as little effort as possible. Its' as if everyone involved in this picture made an arrangement to put in the least amount of work that they could, a trait that unfortunately applies to the quality of the film's DVD release as well.
It's probably unrealistic to expect this tenth entry to live up to the first film's amazing level of awesomeness, but would it have been unrealistic to expect the filmmakers to at least try?
Zero Woman R arrives on DVD in a non-anamorphic 1.85.1 widescreen transfer that appears to be the picture's original aspect ratio. On top of that, the transfer is interlaced. On the plus side, the source material used for the transfer is quite clean meaning that the image is free of print damage, dirt and debris. There aren't any problems with mpeg compression artifacts or edge enhancement though color reproduction leans towards the dark side of the spectrum and sometimes things are a little bit murky looking. All in all, the transfer is watchable enough, but it's nothing to write home about.
The Japanese language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track on this disc is pretty basic but it gets the job done. There isn't a whole lot of channel separation but the levels are well balanced and there are no problems with irritating hiss or distortion worth noting. Optional English language options are included, though some bizarre and awkward phrasings make them less than idea even if the clear white font is easy to read.
Extras are disappointingly light, limited to a still gallery, a promotional segment for other, unrelated Cinema Epoch releases, static menus and chapter selection.
Zero Woman R provides no shortage of softcore titillation but outside of that offers very little of interest. The plot meanders, the performances are uninspired and the action scenes are amateurish at the best of times. Cinema Epoch's DVD does the film no favors with a bland non-anamorphic transfer and some remarkably bad subtitles. The lack of any real extras doesn't help matters much either, making this one easy to pass by. Skip it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.