Tokyo Gore Police [orig. Tôkyô zankoku keisatsu] (Japan-2008; dir. Yoshihiro Nishimura)
In future Tokyo, the law-enforcement agencies have been privatised and a zero-tolerance approach to violent crime sees the police executing serial killers live, on the streets, as part of a program of self-promotional TV advertising (offered as stylised inserts reminiscent of those featured in Verhoeven’s ultra-violent classic Robocop). Meanwhile some sort of alien-like infestation (involving a key-like tumor that “unlocks” the body’s transformational potential) is turning people into “Engineers” — violent mutants with super-strength and the ability to grow weapons integrated with their flesh-and-bone when they sustain injury.
Chop off an arm, for example, and the stump is likely to sprout a big, fleshy machine-gun, or a chain-saw (on a chain), in a fashion undeniably inspired by David Cronenberg’s “New Flesh” (from films such as Videodrome and eXistenZ). Luckily, this is Japan and the cops — decked-out in futuristic pseudo-Samurai armour — wield katana as often as guns, thus allowing for an extravagant visual symphony of decapitation, dismemberment, head-splitting and squirting blood. The title of the film doesn’t lie. Whatever the words “Tokyo Gore Police” evoke in your twisted imagination the film offers up — and more.
But the style of the film is cartoonish and extreme, like a live-action manga. It’s hard to take seriously. It’s more disgusting than it is scary. The gore and bloodiness is of the post-Evil Dead kind — all old-school make-up FX and prosthetics — with blood fountaining out of cut and mangled flesh in an impossibly unending stream. The best way to categorise the imagery of Tokyo Gore Police is “extreme grotesquerie”, with director/SFX supervisor Yoshihiro Nishimura providing as many weird variations on the theme as can possibly be fit into the film’s 105-minute running time.
Is there a plot? Well, yes, of a kind. Special officer Ruka is the now-classic Japanese stereotype of the grim swordswoman who uses her unlikely talents for katana-wielding violence in the cause of rough justice, but who is haunted by some past trauma — in this case, the bloody assassination of her esteemed father. Naturally the current wave of Engineered bloodshed will eventually connect with the traumas of the past.
Really though, the plot is little more than an excuse. None of the characters rise much above the gaudy and in-your-face stereotypes on which they are based and it’s hard to accept their emotional dilemmas as more than fashion accessories. The film is not about emotions or themes; it’s more like an exercise in outrageous and bloody imagery. Yet despite gaining inspiration from the West via the likes of Robocop, Cronenberg, Peter Jackson’s Brain Dead or any number of 1980s splatter flicks, Tokyo Gore Police remains a uniquely Japanese visual experience. Its design, and more importantly its attitude, are in a tradition of Japanese gore that stretches from the 1980s with Evil Dead Trap, through the infamous Guinea Pig series of the 1990s, to martial-art splatter such as The Story of Ricki, through bloodier examples of the swordplay genre, or chanbara, to the powerful Battle Royale and such contemporary new-wave efforts as The Machine Girl.
Arguably, even for the niche that Tokyo Gore Police occupies, the gushing blood gushes so freely that it gets a little repetitive, and too often the effort to be wacky and outrageous shows the strain and becomes self-conscious. But if you’re willing to embrace its excesses and revel in some imaginatively grotesque gore, there’s no need to look further than this gluttonous visual feast of mutant scifi insanity.
- Review originally published on the Horrorscope website.