A petite, kitty-and-cat-video-obsessed pixie punches, slices, stabs and shoots well above her weight in “The Violence Action,” a candy-colored yakuza-killing comedy from Japan.
Based on a comic book, cast with mostly ex-child actors who look like the figures in Shin Sawada and Renji Asai’s manga, its a violently manic, cartoonish farce cluttered with gangs, characters and agendas. It bolts out of the opening credits and quickly bogs down in dull details and wild wire-work fight choreography that can’t help but turn repetitive.
Not worth the trouble? That sums it up. But for J-action manga junkies, here’s what it has to offer.
There’s the usual young, petite, sexy-but-desexualized heroine, Kei, played by Kann Hashimoto in a succession of shorts and wigs until she settles on peach being her favorite color.
Kei has her crew, here a “club” run out of a Hello Kitty-decorated noodle shop — closed to the public and presided over by Tencho (Fumika Baba). They are The Supple and Natural Gals Delivery Service, ostensibly a call-girl operation cover for hired hits.
Zura (Takashi Okamura) is Kei’s driver, older and bald and hiding that baldness under a (literally) bullet-proof Elvis pompadour.
Kei’s a “childish” college bookkeeping student by day, assassin the rest of the time. Dopey “bowl cut” nerd Watanabe (Oji Suzuka) crushes on her and finds himself drawn into her life.
And Kei and her crew are being drawn into a multi-gang yakuza war, spinning around a punk gang boss, Ayabe (Shunsuke Daitô) who is kidnapped at one point, and a mob accountant Terano (Yôsuke Sugino), with lots of missing yen and lots of mob intrigues about where it should go.
At some point, Kei will find herself face to face with Terano and give him the goo-goo eyes that “Bowl Cut” Watanabe gives her.
No, nothing will come of that, because there’s no romance or sex in this or most action manga adaptations or — judging by its plummeting birth rate — in Japan as a whole right now.
The deadliest and funniest foil for this “delivery service” is the mob fixer/killer/goon “Mister” Michitaka, played by the towering Japanese-Spanish pretty boy Yu Shirota. Made up like the comic book character, he’s a bespectacled metallic blonde who looks like Second City Canadians Harold Ramis and Rick Moranis had a love child.
He’s funny, and menacing every time he appears.
Too many of the characters are insipid caricatures, the story is a convoluted quagmire of agendas, alliances, gangs and big, modernist gang meetings in boardrooms and the dialogue better suited to an anime aimed at the arrested-development corner of animation’s fanbase.
The funniest scenes all involve Michitaka, who can’t handle the idea of a “woman” assassin, much less two of them when Kei’s crew calls in sniper Daria (Yûri Ota).
“Know the word ‘misogynist?” the shooter asks?
“What, is that some special, spicy messed-up miso (soup)?”
I liked the cartwheeling, wall-walking, bullet-dodging nonsense of the brawls. Note the fight choreography and blur of swirling cameras and edits designed to make us think an 85 pound pixie is dropping hulking gangsters by the metric ton in every fight. It’s all too glib about the blood-letting and entirely too childish and nonsensical for me to get into. But the world’s 40 year-old virgins need movies too, I guess.
Rating: TV-MA, bloody violence and lots of it.
Cast: Kann Hashimoto, Fumika Baba, Oji Suzuka, Yôsuke Sugino Ota and Yu Shirota.
Credits: Directed by Tôichirô Rutô, scripted by Tôichirô Rutô and Itaru Era, based on the comic book by Renji Esai and Shin Sawada. A Sony release on Netflix.
Running time: 1:51