Posted on December 3, 2012 AT 07:08am
Mobsters, sushi, diamonds, revenge, torture, and a naked lady. Candyman [Tony Todd] and Luke Skywalker [Mark Hamill] in the same movie. Cameos galore. All these things only scratch the surface of the film Sushi Girl. It was independently produced Assembly Line, in association with Level Up Productions, and may very well serve to show that indie film is moving to hit Hollywood in a big way.
Sushi Girl‘s opens to the classic James Bond tune ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ and we are introduced to the titular Sushi Girl [Cortney Palm], the sushi chef [Sonny Chiba, known to many as Kill Bill's Hattori Hanzo], and the apparent main character, Fish [a grown up Noah Hathaway, who many haven't seen since he played Atreyu in The Neverending Story]. Fish has spent six years in jail, having been caught red-handed after a diamond heist that went sour. During those six years, he’s protected the identities of the other four people involved. Those four–Duke, Francis, Max, and Crow–are throwing him a party to celebrate his freedom, with the main course being sushi served off of the naked body of the Sushi Girl. It’s never so simple, though. When the heist went pear-shaped, the diamonds they stole went missing. The real purpose of the party becomes clear. Or so it seems.
On its surface, the story bears some similarities Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, but once you get past the concept of a botched heist and the fallout between the survivors, you’ll find something that stands completely on its own. Each of the characters feel fully fleshed out as their stories come out, making you understand their behavior, if even just a little. The physical and mental anguish that often take center stage will frequently have you questioning their motives and actions, regardless. As Fish is leaving the jail, he calls home to announce his freedom. His child doesn’t recognize his voice, and the pained expression on his face is a mere drop in the bucket compared to the happenings of the next hour and a half.
It should be noted that this movie is not for the faint of heart. Some of the violence dished out is difficult to watch; there’s little remorse, and plenty of blood. Honestly, the torture scenes that don’t have blood are just as agonizing to watch because they’re done so well. To its benefit, the violence actually works within the bounds of the plot, instead of being gore for the sake of gore. However, after this movie, I’ll never look at chopsticks the same way.
The cast, from stem to stern, is absolutely amazing. It’s really hard to know where to start, since every one of them were outstanding. Tony Todd, went for a slow burning intensity that I haven’t actually seen from him before. Yes, he’s played the tall, dark, and nasty characters, but his role as the dapper-but-cruel Duke will hopefully get him the attention he deserves. [I, personally, think he's one of the best untapped resources that Hollywood hasn't properly taken advantage of.] Mark Hamill seemed to conjure a touch of the Joker, but with a darkness you’d never have expected to see from the guy who was once the last great hope of the Rebel Alliance. After you’ve watched him as Crow, everything you thought you knew about him will be thrown to the wind. He’s been hiding off camera as merely a voice for ages, so it was great to not only see him on screen, but to be blowing away the typecast he’s been fighting for years. In fact, many members of the cast are actors who have been doing the same thing. Noah Hathaway is so much more than the long haired Atreyu now and James Duval isn’t just a dead guy wearing a bunny mask. The cameos are peppered throughout the movie, bringing a number of other big names to the table: Michael Biehn, Danny Trejo, David Dastmalchian, Jeff Fahey… And Ted Stryker, DJ from Los Angeles radio station KROQ-FM, makes a brief appearance.
While I’m talking about the actors, though, I feel I must mention one of the best performances is actually one of the most silent: Cortney Palm as Sushi Girl. The sushi chef tells her, “Don’t speak, don’t make eye contact, don’t move a muscle… No matter what you see, or hear.” She complies, leaving only her expressions to convey her emotions. Crow [Mark Hamill], even tests her resolve by snapping his fingers in her face and nearly poking her in the eye. Some of her best moments, though, are parts of the movie that best remain a secret until you’ve seen it for yourself.
Speaking of which, check out the trailer below:
SUMMARY: Some may either see it or skip it due to similarities to Reservoir Dogs, but you need to set those feelings aside. Sushi Girl is its own film and it uses its actors in wonderful, horrible, and unexpected ways. The plot may seem ‘familiar’ at times, but it progresses in directions you definitely wouldn’t expect. If you enjoy your suspense with a smattering of blood and wasabi, Sushi Girl is a must see.
- THE GOOD: Great casting and well-written dialogue. Plot twists abounds. Violence manages to push forward the plot without feeling like outright ‘torture porn’.
- THE BAD: Torture scenes are often graphic and often hard to watch.
- THE UGLY: Fish after the gang is done getting answers from him.
Sushi Girl is currently available via Video On Demand. Check your local provider to see if it’s available. It will also be receiving a limited theatrical release on January 5th, 2013.
CORRECTION: Andy Mackenzie kindly pointed out to me that it was Crow who poked at Sushi Girl’s eye, not Max.
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