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DVD Reviews: Gun Crazy Vols. 1 & 2

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While browsing the DVD shelves for something new, I came across a title that caught my eye. It was called Gun Crazy: A Woman from Nowhere. It caught my eye, you know the words “Gun” and “Crazy” go well together, don’t you think? Combine that with my love for Asian cinema, and it seemed like a no brainer. The premise looked interesting, so I picked it up. I watched it, liked it a lot, then went online and found that there was going to be a second film, subtitled Beyond the Law. So, of course I went out and picked it up too. Turns out that it’s not a sequel, the only thing they share is a director, but it was still pretty good. In a nutshell, they are low budget, stylish, fast paced action tales. Let’s take a look at the two separately.

A Woman From Nowhere. This episode plays a lot like a western. A stranger with a mysterious past arrives in town on a mission. Of course, that town is run by a ruthless crime boss, who is very adept at eliminating the numerous bounty hunters sent to collect his head. The story doesn’t really get any deeper than that. What carries the film is the performance of it’s star, Ryoko Yonekura. She plays the stranger, Saki, who arrives in town in a leather outfit on the back of a Harley. Her arrival starts bad as she witnesses a cold-blooded murder and gets entangled with some of the bosses henchmen, who also happen to be American military.

The story plays out in the standard way. We discover a connection between the boss, Toju, and Saki. The film plays out briskly over a running time of less than 70 minutes, cramming in some shootouts, and exposition at a pace that doesen’t allow boredom to set in. It is well acted, has a a great look. I couldn’t help but be entertained watching this movie. It is well entrenched in the B-movie realm, but it is a lot more fun than a lot of what is out there.

Beyond the Law. This plays out in a way that is similar, yet vastly different to the first. It should be noted that this is not a sequel, it makes a brief mention of the events of the first film as a bit if a link, but that’s it. This time around we follow Yuki, a young lawyer who has a string of bad luck and finds herself on the wrong side of the bars. Upon her release she finds herself a changed woman serving justice with a gun.

The biggest difference between this one and it’s predecessor is a change in focus. Where the first one focuses on the mystery and attitude with bursts of action, this one os more character development with bursts of action. We get a better, albeit accelerated due to the short runtime, look at the character of Yuki. We learn what she cares about and her motivations for the changes in her attitudes. This is anchored by the fine performance from Rei Kikukawa, who brings a innocence to the character which is rather refreshing, making the character shifts more believable. Like the first it has a similar sense of style, making them a nice pair of films.

For a pair of blind purchases, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality delivered by these two films. They do have similar trappings. The formula takes an attractive young woman, adds a leather outfit and a pair of guns, supplies a suitable motivation for the use of those guns, and sets them loose. Both of these clock in at under 70 minutes in length,therefore keeping any fluff and story padding to a minimum. In this B movie world that works to the movies advantage as it doesn’t allow time for boredom to creep in.

Atsushi Muroga directed both films. He displays a sure hand for his action, coaxing good performances from his leads and adding a visual flair that helps them stand apart from the other girls with guns type movies out there. Doing a quick search reveals that he has only 2 other films to his name, his debut was an action film called Score, which appears to be along the lines of these two, and Junk, a low budget zombie horror film which I would like to see. He is a talented director, I would like to see what he could do with a larger budget.

Video. Both films are presented in what appears to be their original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and they are anamorphically enhanced. The transfers are excellent, colors are strong, skin tones are good, blacks are deep. For what are essentially budget disks, they got a first rate transfer.

Audio. Both films are in Japanese with some English. That said, the two disks have 2 audio tracks, English 5.1 and Japanese 2.0. I watched them both with the Japanese tracks, occasionally checking the dub to see if it was any good. The audio levels were good, all was clear. The dub was not that good, the voices seemed to sit on top, not blending with the action too well. The English subtitles are exactly that, and are considerably different than the dubbed lines. I am glad to have the original language.

Extras. Not much to speak of on the features front.
-Interview. Each film has an interview with the films respective star. Interesting if not terribly informative.
-Trailers. Each film has the opposing ones trailer in addition to a few upcoming disks from ADV.

Bottomline. I liked both of these films. The combination of style, good action and a short running time add up to an enjoyable experience. The lead actresses both play well within the confines of the role, and I would not mind seeing them in other work. Atsushi Muroga displays considerable skill. I am not sure if there are any more, but I would enjoy seeing another Gun Crazy tale.

Recommended.

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