Posted: 11/09/2008


Tokyo Gore Police


by Jason Coffman

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Recently, the Tokyo Shock DVD banner of Media Blasters became involved in film production with their Tokyo Shock Originals. The first film in this series was The Machine Girl, a gleefully cartoonish revenge film in which a girl has her arm replaced with a machine gun to get revenge on the bullies who killed her brother. The film comes across like the bastard daughter of Takashi Miike and Monty Python— limbs get hacked off with alarming regularity, and the resultant blood spray looks more like it’s coming out of an industrial-strength paint machine than a human. Still, The Machine Girl had a weird charm that helped it become strangely endearing, so hopes were high for Tokyo Shock’s next production, Tokyo Gore Police.

Eihi Shiina (of Takashi Miike’s Audition) stars as Ruka, seemingly sole member of a very specialized police force. Mutants called “Engineers” have begun appearing all over Tokyo, their murderous rampages compounded by the fact that they’re nigh-invincible. Only by destroying or separating the part of their body that houses a key-shaped tumor can the Engineers be killed. Ruka has risen through the ranks of the privatized police force as the best “Engineer Hunter” (when the guys with machine guns can’t get the job done, she comes in with a sword and finishes the job). As the mysterious Engineers become more and more bold in their attacks against the general populace and the police, Ruka learns that not everything is as it seems.

On paper, Tokyo Gore Police seems like a can’t-miss proposition. The film’s plot is a mish-mash of Robocop, Blade Runner, and countless manga that came before it. There’s a lot of pitch-black humor, much of it in the form of fake television commercials directly recalling Robocop. The film takes the approach of The Machine Girl and turns everything up to 11: it’s so relentlessly bloody, brutal, and nihilistic that it makes The Machine Girl look like Bergman’s Wild Strawberries. It may well take the title of most gory film ever made from Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive. The character design is straight out of perverse manga, with such monstrosities as penis-nosed women, a limbless S&M queen who makes Cherry Darling look uncommitted, and a man whose penis transforms into a Cronenbergian elephant gun.

So what’s wrong here? Despite its pedigree and obvious care to cater to as many otaku as possible, Tokyo Gore Police feels strangely empty. Perhaps it’s too much of a good thing— at 110 minutes, the ridiculous gore starts to weary. Perhaps it’s the fact that the film promises exactly what it delivers. Tokyo Gore Police is the most textbook high-concept title to come along since Snakes on a Plane. The film seems intent on delivering exactly what you might expect and nothing more, trading out any character development for more scenes of dicks being chomped off or people being cut in half vertically.

In the end, this lack of any real involvement with the characters might be the film’s undoing. Eihi Shiina, as the film’s protagonist, barely has any lines in the film and spends most of its running time with a blank look that betrays no emotion. You can’t help but empathize with her as the film goes on, throwing depravity after atrocity until you’re completely inured to whatever weirdness comes next. The film will no doubt be a must-see for fans of this sort of thing, but it doesn’t have much to offer anyone else. Still, I’m looking forward to see what else Tokyo Shock Originals comes up with, so long as it can manage some balance between cartoon gore and the other things that people go to the movies to see.

Jason Coffman is a film critic living in Chicago.

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