Fish has spent six years in jail. Six years alone. Six years keeping his mouth shut about the robbery, about the other men involved. The night he is released, the four men he protected with silence celebrate his freedom with a congratulatory dinner. The meal is a lavish array of sushi served off the naked body of a beautiful young woman. The sushi girl seems catatonic, trained to ignore everything in the room, even if things become dangerous. Sure enough, the four unwieldy thieves can’t help but open old wounds in an attempt to find their missing loot.
Sushi Girl 7.25
eyelights: Mark Hamill’s scenery-chewing. Tony Todd’s deeper-than-deep voice. the Reservoir Dogs-like premise.
eyesores: the rehashing of “Diamonds Are Forever”. the so-so twist. the clichéd dialogue. its predictability. its gruesomeness.
“Remember you are a tray. You must not move. You must not make eye contact. You must not react. No matter what you see… or hear.”
There are two things that drew me to ‘Sushi Girl’: 1) Mark Hamill’s involvement, and 2) the fact that it relates to sushi. You see, one of my best buds was celebrating his birthday and wanted to do a sushi-making party. As part of his gift, I put together a package that included films that had something to do with sushi, including ‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi‘ and ‘Deddo sushi‘.
In fact, if not for this, I’m sure I never would have gotten around to seeing ‘Sushi Girl’; Mark Hamill would likely not have been enough of a draw in and of itself. Well, the two combined not only put the movie in my hands, but it put it on my radar – especially after my friend watched all of the films (close to 40 in total!) and gave me feedback on them. This prompted me to bump it up a notch or two.
I’m really glad that I did. While ‘Sushi Girl’ is hardly a masterpiece, nor is it especially fresh, it is relatively well-made for what it is – which is a Tarantino-esque crime thriller.
Picture, if you will, the following scenario:
A criminal is released after six years of jail time for a heist gone wrong. His partners-in-crime have all been waiting patiently for his return to find out what has happened to the diamonds that they stole, thinking that he likely holed them up for himself. Assembled for a sushi dinner in a seedy warehouse district, they take turns trying to force the truth out of the jailbird.
With just one setting (aside from the short flashbacks recounting the heist), a handful of characters, punchy dialogues, a brutal interrogation, and a Mexican standoff, one can’t help but think of ‘Reservoir Dogs’. I mean, the picture even has a scene where a key player, a suspected police informant, has a bathroom scene. Can you spell “derivative”. I can: S-U-S-H-I G-I-R-L.
Still, it’s nonetheless entertaining.
I dug the pace at which every little piece of the puzzle was revealed to us, keeping us engaged the whole time with interpersonal conflict and, when necessary, little breaks to give us the back story. I even enjoyed the characters, as cartoonish as they were. And, although I disliked the exploitative nature of the violence, I could feel the tension building each time.
But there were a few significant issues that tapered my enthusiasm:
1. The theme song: Its usage of the original Shirley Bassey track “Diamonds Are Forever”, over the opening credits. It’s bad enough that it’s an iconic song, therefore impossible to appreciate in a new context, but they actually took the very same version. Not a cover. Not a remix. Heck, not even an edit. THE song. So, basically, while watching the credits, I spent a large amount of time wondering if there was a problem with the audio, and comparing the credits to the original (Um… Maurice Binder wins hands down). It was a jarring first impression.
2. The characters: While I liked the characters to some degree, they all felt like they were written for a comic book – they didn’t seem like real-life individuals (despite the fact that Max looked like a dead ringer for Rob Zombie). If anything they were amped-up versions of real people, for effect. Duke is a haiku-spewing, African-American Yakuza-type, Crow is a cruel Elton John-esque villain, Francis is a cold-sweating pretty-boy, and Fish is a rat-like scuzzbag who’s tougher than he looks. They’re cinematic, but not realistic.
3. The performances: I also found the performances exactly that: performances. While I enjoyed Mark Hamill’s shrieking, whiny Crow in all its extravagance, James Duvall was absolutely insufferable as Francis, Andy MacKenzies was only passable as Max and Tony Todd wavered between grimly true-to-life and self-consciously gritty. Heck, even the cameos were slightly off. Only Noah Hathaway truly worked for me, even though what his character goes through simply has no basis in fact – so there’s no point of reference to speak of.
4. The ending: I also really disliked the ending, which was contrived for convenience and which I didn’t buy. I can’t say much about it, obviously, but it has everything to do with the titular sushi girl, who was hired to lay on the table silently and immobile while the criminals discuss their affairs. Naked. Covered in sushi. This is not an invention of the filmmakers’, this is something that exists in real life, but it is a novel setting in which to find a sushi girl. Anyway, her role in all this left to be desired, in my estimation.
5. The film’s version of beauty: For some reason, it really nagged at me to see a tattooed woman with breast implants as a centerpiece; it was as though they picked a stripper for the part. While I understand that the men portrayed in this film would likely find her to their liking, I was bothered by the notion that she would be held up as an example of beauty. I know that it’s in the eye of the beholder, but, in my estimation, implants aren’t exactly something to laud – women have enough body image issues as is without thinking that bigger is better.
But that’s just my personal politics showing. Let’s face it: in that context, and given that it’s a low budget Hollywood film, it’s not entirely surprising or discrepant.
In the end, though, what matters most is that it is possible to overlook that issue and some of the other flaws to enjoy this post-Tarantino, post-Saw crime thriller. Is it exceptional? No. Is it exemplary? Certainly not. But it is memorable. And there’s a rawness to ‘Sushi Girl’ that is appealing.
I know that I will likely want another serving someday.
Date of viewing: August 6, 2013