Hard Revenge Milly:
After watching the Making-Of featurettes for Hard Revenge, Milly and Hard Revenge, Milly: Bloody Battle, it's hard to doubt the sincerity of Japanese writer/ director Takanori Tsujimoto (Kill) and special effects artist Yoshihiro Nishimura (Tokyo Gore Police). Taking in these movies with little-to-no prior knowledge, however, might give you the impression you're watching almost too-clever satire or boutique chop-chop-hack. What else to make of this short double feature from Well Go USA's 'Hyper Violence Collection,' featuring deceptively little of substance save ADD-addled fights and people getting their jaws punched off in bloody geysers.
Now that I've cleared the room of all but who truly seek such things, let's talk about -
Hard Revenge, Milly: Tsujimoto's first solo outing, a 45-minute ode to tough women, florid fisticuffs, and glaring through the hole you've just blown through someone's torso using the shotgun surgically implanted where your femur used to be. Clearly even those predisposed to this type of stuff aren't supposed to take this outing too seriously ... or are they? Enough attention is given to style to make you wonder, but looking closely, that style lacks substance - beyond a short handful of cultural quirks - leaving you with slick cartoon violence. Inasmuch as plenty of the violence will leave you laughing out loud, while fight scenes will certainly invigorate you, it's clear that whatever the hell Hard Revenge, Milly is, it's a modest success.
In flashback, Milly (Miki Mizuno) winds up on the wrong end of a group of murderous sadists. Doing horrible things to her family - like killing them and all - the gang somehow manages to leave Milly alive. With a little help from a creepy surgeon, Milly comes back stronger than ever, desiring, with her deadened soul, only revenge. In a semi-functional post-apocalyptic world (the date is cleverly displayed as 20XX) Milly drives her dusty Porsche Cayenne to any number of de rigueur abandoned factories dotting the Japanese countryside. Therein, she commences shooting, kicking and slashing everyone in sight, and blood sprays as if from a fire-hose.
Clearly we're talking about a particular form of Japanese Action Movie distilled to its core elements. Minus a few long, moody resting shots - possibly meant to convey depth or meaning in characters, though none is actually delivered - this movie is all stylistic action. At that, you won't be dissatisfied; fights are fast, furious, and fashionable. And though they're hyper-violent and hyper-kinetic, they don't fly by in a flurry of incomprehensible edits. Meanwhile, Mizuno draws from a well of soul-deadened cool, creating a character that is such an icy killer she might as well be asleep. Then again, Milly did have the pleasure of watching her infant child lit on fire. Speaking of brutality, heads are chopped off, arms hacked, faces slashed, and more. Jets of blood notwithstanding, most gore effects are laughable in their cheapness. Dummies are clearly made of discolored rubber, and a certain CGI decapitation looks to have been created with an iPhone. None of this detracts from the fun in any way, somehow, it makes everything work better.
Hard Revenge, Milly: Bloody Battle: Apparently, Milly didn't get enough hard revenge the first time around, so she returns for this beefier 75-minute outing. Using a similar mix of minimal plot, and maximum violence, Bloody Battle maintains the same level of detached insanity despite its stretched run-time.
As with most revenge killings, one good death deserves another. It's why Milly is on the run from friends of Jack - head maniac from the previous film. As Jack was "the craziest, sexiest man alive," his gay friend Ikki (Kazuki Tsujimoto) enlists his brother and a few other slimeballs to get revenge on Milly. Meanwhile, Haru (Nao Nagasawa) desires revenge for the death of her brother, and looks up Milly for the job. And then people get shot, stabbed, hacked apart, blown away, mutilated, tortured and what have you. Nishimura's gore effects once again revel in exuberance, if not believability, while action coordinator Kensuke Sonomura returns with beautifully choreographed fight scenes. We even get a plot twist, for when our minds get tired of calculating blood pressure PSI.
Despite the bizarre gay subtext, (as Ikki approaches a hog-tied female victim, "don't worry, I'm gay," he barks) Bloody Battle simply expands on everything done - and done well - in the first movie. Notably, if you need more time to contemplate crazed, prosthetically enhanced women going super violent, you'll get it here. Moreover, you get something like a theme, albeit one delivered by an insane killer, "the most important thing is winning."
Both movies come in 16 x 9 widescreen format. While they certainly show their low-budget roots - there's a harsh digital quality - there's far worse on the market. I detected a little bit of motion blur during action scenes, but not enough to hamper my enjoyment. A stylized palette blankets everything except blood in dusty grays and browns; black levels are adequate. Other than the somewhat harsh digital grain mentioned above, I observed no major compression problems, and found detail levels to be acceptable but not super exciting.
Both movies are as much a showcase for contemporary Japanese aggro-techno or whatever, music is pushed up high in the mix. In this case, it's not a problem, as these invigorating songs perfectly match the subject. Overall Dolby Digital 5.1 Japanese Audio does a decent job with dialog, and with mostly mid-range songs and sound-effects, creates a nicely active audio environment.
This single disc edition comes in a standard keepcase with a paper-wasting slipcover. Trailers for both movies accompany Making-Of Featurettes and English Subtitles. The Trailers give away all the splashy effects, and the featurettes are full of spoilers, so skip all of that until you watch the movies. A Photo Gallery advertised on the cover is MIA. The Hard Revenge featurette runs about 45-minutes, going in depth on just about everything. It's a kick watching the actors go from deferential and reserved during interview segments to cuttin' peoples heads off for the camera. Mizuno's assertion towards the end that she's "done with Milly," brings a laugh. The Bloody Battle doc clocks in at 15 minutes, with similar yet more brief focus.
This pair of no-nonsense violent action films takes you on a two-hour ride of hardcore comic-book action. Ridiculous violence, geysers of blood and fantastic fights make way only briefly for lengthy shots of our heroine Milly wearily rubbing her temples - a brief nod to thematic style. Two short, hard-hitting hyper-violent action flicks with making-of featurettes on one disc? What's not to like? Recommended.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com