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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Film review: 009-1: The End of the Beginning

Japanese film reviewReview by Matt S.

Exploitation cinema is a constant across the world. It doesn't really matter if the film comes from America, Japan, Europe, or Australia, you're going to get much the same thing, regardless where they come from.

Exploitation films are short - and would be much shorter if they didn't rely on lingering shots of the body and/ or random sex scenes. Exploitation films have ridiculous plotlines which it tries to hide behind many action sequences, which are marked by cheap special effects.

009-1 doesn't have the same levels of raw sex as the typical exploitation film, but it is every bit an exploitation film. So getting it out of the way from the start, if you're going in expecting something that you can then claim should have won an academy award, you're doing yourself a disservice. Taken as something both brainless and silly, 009-1 doesn't do a bad job for itself.

Japanese exploitation film

Taking the cheap special effects out of the equation, for instance, and the fight choreography is actually quite entertaining. The film is just long enough so it doesn't outstay its welcome, and while the story is underdone, the fact that this is based on a popular manga helps to lend it some kind of weight. Mylene Hoffaman, an android spy woman finds herself caught within a particularly nasty web of intrigue, finds herself infiltrating underground body harvesting rings, and then dealing with some corrupt scientists that are modifying humans in the wrong way.

It's generic stuff, but it's easy to watch and the safe, familiar narrative arc won't confuse anyone. There's even hints within the film that it could have been something more. The way that Mylene is called a "monster" by all the normal humans because of her enhanced physical abilities, even as she is literally saving their lives, introduces something of a theme about discrimination and racism, but nothing is ever done with this theme, of course. Can't get too serious when your movie is all about pretty people either laying into one another or laying on one another.

Japanese action film review

Of course, because this is an exploitation film, there's also an obsession with the female body, and 009-1 doesn't disappoint there. The cinematography is lavish, lingering on the female form at every opportunity, and costumes are carefully designed to tantalise without necessarily ever titillating.

There's almost no actual nudity (and when there are exposed breasts and the like it's minor, background characters), but there's plenty of strategic camera shots to still allow sex scenes, and there's one pool scene which is quite genuinely a cinematography masterpiece in the sexually-charged atmosphere that it creates. Most importantly, leading lady, Mayuko Iwasa, is gorgeous. The former junior idol and Miss Magazine 2003 is a great asset for this kind of film - she's not the greatest actor, but her experience as a gravure idol means she moves in just the right way to give every scene she's in the sensual, sexy edge that, to be honest, suits a setting about cyborg spies.

It's impossible to take this film seriously. Mylene's most potent weapon is machine gun boobs, after all. And while exploitation films will always have a seedy edge to them that will make people uncomfortable, taken in the right spirit - as brain dead entertainment, I quite genuinely enjoyed this one.

- Matt S. 
Find me on Twitter: @digitallydownld

You can buy this film via Madman Entertainment in Australia and New Zealand
Film review: 009-1: The End of the Beginning
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