Revenge is bittersweet in this sleazy Hong Kong/Japanese martial-arts actioner about a kickass, revenge-seeking heroine.

Revenge is bittersweet in the sleazy Hong Kong/Japanese martial-arts actioner “Sasori.” Aimed squarely at the Nipponese down-at-heel market, pic is adapted from a popular manga (filmed in the ’70s as the “Female Convict Scorpion” series) about a kickass, revenge-seeking heroine and leaves few fetishes unbound in its wake. Perfs and narrative are too stiff to engage emotionally, but the visceral elements will have Asian film geeks eagerly awaiting ancillary. Fests with midnight sidebars will also get a kick out of this grindhouse item, set for local release post-Cannes.

Beautiful housewife Sasori (Miki Mizuno) is preparing a meal for her guitar-playing cop husband (Taiwanese singer-thesp Dylan Kuo) and his visiting family when they are invaded by a trio of murderers who force Sasori to kill her sister-in-law while hubby watches. When the police finally arrive, Sasori’s horrified spouse ensures his wife is carted off.

In jail, Sasori proves herself queen bee among the mostly nubile inmates by defeating all comers in locker-room brawls and mud-wrestling competitions. To discourage an uprising, Sasori is tortured and dumped by order of the prison warden (Hong Kong character actor Lam Suet), who presides from an office that is equal parts W. Somerset Maugham and Tennessee Williams.

Buried in the jungle surrounding the prison, Sasori is revived by a character known as the Corpse Collector (Johnnie To regular Simon Yam, punching the clock). For no discernible reason, he gives her martial-arts expertise so she can exact revenge.

In a glam version of incognito, Sasori arrives at a bar where her ex-hubby has a regular guitar gig, only to discover he’s had his memory erased by hypnotherapy to block out his painful past. Only then does the yarn get really silly.

Martial-arts action is decent and bloodletting plentiful, with never an opportunity lost for a crotch shot or a bulging breast. In providing a cinematic version of the manga experience, experienced helmer Joe Ma serves up a glossy chessboard on which lifeless pawns are moved in a pre-determined game. Pic’s most memorable feature is its flashy art direction.

Sasori

Hong Kong-Japan

Production

An Art Port (Japan) presentation of a Same Way (Hong Kong) production. (International sales: Easternlight Films, Los Angeles.) Produced by Toji Kato. Executive producer, Junichi Matsushita. Directed by Joe Ma. Screenplay, Lee Ka-wing, Ma, based on the manga by Tooru Shinohara.

Crew

Camera (color), Chan Kwong-hung; editor, Azrael Chung; art director, Simon So; sound (Dolby Digital); action director, Wong Wai-fai. Reviewed at Hong Kong FilMart, March 17, 2008. Running time: 96 MIN.

With

Miki Mizuno, Dylan Kuo, Emme Wong, Sam Lee, Bruce Leung, Nana Natsume, Lam Suet, Ryo Ishibashi, Simon Yam. (Cantonese dialogue version)
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