I’ve long lamented the dilution of the term “grindhouse” in the modern horror era. Thanks to the rampant reissuing of a very specific type of grindhouse film, modern filmmakers have come to the conclusion that everything showcased on 42nd Street was an over-the-top, endless bloodbath filled with gallows humor and devoid of any subtext, resulting in a slew of modern “grindhouse” movies built on precisely that formula. Thankfully, we have filmmakers like Kurando Mitsutake, whose Gun Woman—available from Scream Factory on Blu-ray—may be one of the finest true grindhouse offerings of the decade.
En route to an extraction point, a pair of hitmen (Matthew Floud Miller and Dean Simone) discuss the details of The Hamazaki Job—an unorthodox assassination that’s become the stuff of legend. The Hamazaki (Noriaka Kamata) in question was the scion of a prominent Tokyo family, who utilized his dad’s fortune to cover up his predilection for rape and murder. Unfortunately for Hamazaki, one of his victims was the wife of a brilliant doctor (Kairi Narita) who made it his life’s mission to find and kill Hamazaki in revenge. To this end, the doctor bought Mayumi (Asami), a sex slave and amphetamine addict with nothing to live for and nothing to lose. Rehabilitating the girl and reprogramming her into a remorseless killer, the doctor set into motion an elaborate plan that would end in the bowels of the Nevada desert, in a Mafia brothel reserved for only the darkest of perversions—a favored playroom of Hamazaki’s that would soon become his tomb.
Though the disc’s features—a director’s commentary and making-of featurette—may be scant, this is the movie grindhouse fans have been waiting for. The authentically 80s-sounding synth soundtrack and loving eye towards garish colors and washed-out whites are amplified by Scream’s gorgeous Blue-Ray treatment, which manages to make a very cleanly filmed movie feel nasty. Augmenting the aesthetics is the film’s intelligent narrative structure, which has the hitmen acting as contradictory, unreliable narrators: While the bulk of the film is ostensibly the “true” version of events as related by one of the hitmen, the action will occasionally cut back to the men in the car as the other killer questions some detail or aspect of chronology, indicating that he’s heard different versions of the story from other, equally reliable members of the underworld. The result is a lingering sense of doubt as the viewer is left to question what—if any—details of the story are true, elaborations, or fabrications.
Without a doubt, though, the film’s greatest asset is Kamata. Hamazaki is easily one of the most chilling villains in exploitation history, a wide-eyed, simpering demon-clown whose terrifying visage only hints at the fantastic evil of which he’s capable. While Asami delivers her requisite level of badassery, Kamata is the real star of the show, sure to haunt many a dream long after the last bullet has flown.