PLOT: After serving a six-year stretch in prison for a diamond heist gone wrong, former bag man Fish (Noah Hathaway) is picked up by the minions of his old boss Duke (Tony Todd)- who believes he stashed the missing diamonds before being picked up by the cops. He's brought to a remote location where Duke has reunited the rest of the gang- consisting of coke-head Francis (James Duval), Max (Andy Mackenzie) the enforcer, and the sadistic Crow (Mark Hamill) for a Yakuza-style meal, where they dine on sushi off the naked body of a girl (Courtney Palm) who's been trained to remain absolutely silent and still no matter what happens.
REVIEW: Imagine the infamous “head-in-a-vice” scene from CASINO, of the ear-cutting part of RESERVOIR DOGS stretched out to about ninety minutes, and you have an idea of what kind of movie SUSHI GIRL is. If that description turns you off- than this isn't for you. However, if you have a taste for the extreme, and can appreciate a stylish, if brutal underworld tale, than you may find SUSHI GIRL to be a delectable dish.
I certainly enjoyed the hell out of SUSHI GIRL, and I have to hand it to director Kern Saxton, who makes his directorial debut here. Mixing torture porn with a mid-nineties indie style heist flick may not seem like the most obvious of mash-ups, but Saxton's delivered a pretty damn stylish film. His flair with the material is obvious right from the start, with sushi chef Sonny Chiba (!) laying out his food atop the naked body of the titular character, while Shirley Bassey's theme song for DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER plays on the soundtrack.
From there, we're given a chance to acquaint ourselves with the memorable ensemble before poor Fish finds himself strapped to a chair, and subjected to torture that's about as brutal as anything I've seen since THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. Tony Todd, who's also the executive producer, has one of the best roles of his career as the certifiable gangster Duke, who in addition to a penchant for collecting trophies off his victims, has a fascination with Japanese Yazuka culture that pervades the entire film.
However, the actor here who's bound to catch the most viewers off guard is Mark Hamill, as the simpering, effete Crow, who's diabolically effective at retrieving information as poor Fish discovers over the course of the film- after being on the receiving end of some impromptu dentistry. Hamill hasn't been this crazy since his days as The Joker on BATMAN- THE ANIMATED SERIES, and he seems to be having a ball chewing the scenery.
The rest of the ensemble is similarly memorable, with Andy Mackenzie doing things with a broken sake bottle and a sock that elicited more than a few gasps from the hog-wild Fantasia crowd. If star Noah Hathaway looks familiar- he should, as he was a child star in the eighties, who starred in THE NEVERENDING STORY as Atreyu and as Boxey on the original BATTLESTAR: GALACTICA. James Duval (of DONNIE DARKO) gets the Steve Buscemi-style part as the coked up wiseguy who may or may not be wearing a wire, and is generally distrusted by everyone else. Michael Biehn, Danny Trejo, and Jeff Fahey also show up in a bravura, skillfully directed heist flashback, scored (a la CASINO) to Cream's “Those Were The Days”.
All in all, I really enjoyed SUSHI GIRL, with it already being an early highlight of this year's Fantasia. The crowd went absolutely wild for it, and hopefully it'll get picked up for distribution. It's a hardcore gangster/horror hybrid that will likely freak you out just as much as it entertains you. It's not for the squeamish, but then again- neither is this festival.