Monday, February 15, 2016

#2,009. Sex and Fury (1973)

Directed By: Noribumi Suzuki

Starring: Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Ryôko Ema

Tag line: "The Biography of the Woman Boss of Bad Girls..."

Trivia: In Italy, this film was released as Sex and Japan

Now here’s a film that lives up to its title!

A Japanese revenge movie, Sex and Fury, directed by Noribumi Suzuki and starring Reiko Ike, features some amazing fight scenes, often with blood (and a few body parts) flying in every direction. And thanks to Swedish bombshell Christina Lindberg (They Call Her One Eye), who plays a British spy, there’s more than enough sex to go around.

Japan, 1905. As a young girl, Ocho (Reiko Ike) witnessed the murder of her police detective father, and has vowed to avenge his death by seeking out his killers.

Years later, after helping Yuki (Rie Saotome), a naïve virgin, escape a life of prostitution, Ocho discovers that two of her dad's three killers, Kurokawa (Seizaburô Kawazu) and Iwakura (Hiroshi Nawa), are now high-ranking government officials. As it turns out, Ocho isn't the only one who wants Kurokawa dead; Shunosuke (Masataka Naruse) is leading a rebellion against the government, and has set his sites on the corrupt politician as well.

Meanwhile, a team of British agents, led by Guinness (Mark Darling), are trying to start a new opium war in Japan. Aided by his pretty assistant Christina (Lindberg), Guinness cozies up to Kurokawa and Iwakura in the hope that they will help him accomplish his goal. What Guinness doesn’t know is that Christina only volunteered for the mission so she could track down her ex-lover, who just so happens to be the rebel leader Shunosuke!

Will Ocho get her revenge, and, in the process, learn the identity of the third killer?

Will Christina and Shunosuke reunite and live happily ever after?

Is Japan destined to be mired in yet another opium war?

If you want to know the answers to these questions, and even if you don't, I recommend you check out Sex and Fury. Trust me… you’ll be happy you did!

Though its story breaks off in a number of different directions (Ocho’s attempt to help Yuki doesn’t go as smoothly as planned, and we eventually learn that Iwakura has been having an affair with Kurokawa’s wife), I never once found Sex and Fury confusing or difficult to follow. But it’s not the story that makes this such a great movie. It’s the action scenes, many of which will blow your mind.

My personal favorite occurs early on, when Ocho, while taking a bath, is attacked by a dozen or so assassins. Acting quickly, a naked Ocho grabs her sword and starts hacking away, cutting off arms and slicing through necks with the greatest of ease. The entire melee plays out in slow motion, and at one point the combatants break through a wall that leads to a picturesque garden, a light snow falling all around them as they continue the fight. It is one of many battles featured throughout the film, yet this particular scene is so stylish and brutal that it manages to stand apart from the rest. Tarantino borrowed heavily from this scene for an equally impressive sequence in Kill Bill, Vol. 1.

Then there’s Christina Lindberg, looking as stunning as ever, as a woman who, while searching for love, is forced to surrender her body for the “greater good”. Aside from being raped by Guinness, she entertains Kurokawa by having a lesbian encounter with his maid as he watches. Not to worry, though, because despite her innocent demeanor, Christina can also kick ass when necessary, as we see in a late scene, when she and Shunosuke finally reconnect in a railway yard. In a movie filled with incredible sequences, this is yet another that you won’t soon forget.

Directed with flair by Noribumi Suzuki, nearly every shot in the film is perfectly framed (the background scenery is often as interesting as what’s going on in the foreground), and with a powerful performance by Reiko Ike in the lead role, Sex and Fury stands as one of the best revenge flicks to emerge from the ‘70s, a movie every bit as ferocious as it is beautiful.

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