Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Sushi Girl

I had never heard of Sushi Girl until I read an article about it a few weeks ago on one of the movie sites I frequent. It looked interesting and had a decent cast of genre favorites, so I figured that I would check it out when I had a chance. Well, I had a chance. I checked it out. It was pretty meh.

It’s the story of a group of criminals who 6 years ago stole a case of diamonds in a heist that went wrong. The diamonds mysteriously disappeared and one of the crew, Fish (Noah Hathaway), went to jail for the crime. Upon his release he is summoned to a dinner at a Japanese restaurant by the heist’s mastermind, Duke (Tony Todd). Along with the others involved in the crime, Francis (James Duval), Max (Andy Mackenzie) and Crow (Mark Hamill), they attempt to find out what happened to their missing loot.
Basically it’s a rip-off of Reservoir Dogs and Suicide Kings and isn’t afraid to show it. The plot is highly unoriginal and predictable, going as far as to blatantly steal scenes from both films with a devil may care attitude. The one original addition is that these criminals are eating their dinner, a sushi buffet complete with fugu (poisonous blowfish), off of a nude young girl (Cortney Palm) who must lie motionless and silent while all this craziness goes on around her. And with that one twinkle of originality comes the final nail in the coffin, which I won’t ruin for anyone interested in seeing the film.

The cast is a veritable who’s who of genre stars. We have horror icon Tony Todd (Candyman, Hatchet), Mark Hamill (Star Wars), James Duval (Independence Day), Noah Hathaway (classic Battlestar Galactica, The NeverEnding Story), Sonny Chiba (Street Fighter, Kill Bill), Michael Biehn (Aliens, The Terminator), Jeff Fahey (The Lawnmower Man, Grindhouse) and Danny Trejo (Machete, Desperado) who actually uses a machete in his one scene. This cast is the only reason to watch the film. Everyone gives a great performance, almost as if they are hoping that this little $750k indie film will somehow propel them back into the spotlight. Mark Hamill is amusing as the effeminate Crow, Tony Todd is menacing as always as the ringleader of the gang and Noah Hathaway really puts his all in as Fish, clearly trying to distance himself as far as he possibly can from his child actor days in the early/mid 80s. It’s just sad that the movie they are so enthusiastically trying to elevate is a simple, boring retread of better movies.
Writer/director Kern Saxton really seems to think he has something special here. He manages to get amazing performances out of his cast and keeps the story somewhat interesting even though it all takes place in one location. It’s like a feature length stage play that looks like a million bucks. Sure the guy has an eye for a cool shot now and then, but his blatant plagiarism is what does this flick in. Think the scene in Reservoir Dogs where the crooks have that cop tied to a chair and Michael Madsen tortures him for information. Picture that extended to ninety minutes. The torture scenes are brutal, but hardly graphic. The violence is tame compared to some other recent movies which is a point I’m going to award to Saxton. It could have gone off the rails gruesome, but thankfully he reels it in and keeps it to a minimum. The guy has talent, but this comes off as an ego project and nothing more. The twists and turns in the plot are as formulaic as they come and ultra predictable. I had the ending figured out at around the halfway point and that’s not a good thing.

I found this interesting… I did a search online for “Sushi Girl funding” because I had some weird feeling that this movie’s budget was provided by Kickstarter donations. I found that Saxton wanted people to fund the movie’s world premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood (they apparently did). I read his mission statement and he seems to think he has made the most “kick ass” movie in existence. He’s very arrogant about it, as are most filmmakers I’m sure, but what irked me the most was that he repeatedly uses his cast as the only selling point. Well, his cast is all this movie has going for it I’m afraid. And his movie is anything but “kick ass”.
There’s not much else to say about this underwhelming flick. It’s a slow crime thriller that doesn’t do much to further the genre in any way (at least not in the way Reservoir Dogs did), but features some universally good performances from some has-beens that were looking for one more moment in the spotlight. Well, the effort was appreciated, but the film itself is a dud. Writer/director Kern Saxton seems to think he’s the next Quentin Tarantino, but he still has a long way to go before he even comes close to touching anything resembling one of that dude’s masterpieces. I’m sorry to say that Sushi Girl suffers from a terminal case of mercury poisoning.

2 out of 5

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