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by Jay Seaver

"New century, new Female Convict Scorpion."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2008 FANTASIA FESTIVAL: I confess to not knowing a great deal about the original "Female Convict Scorpion" series; for all my love of Japanese/cult/action cinema, it's not a part of the canon I've had a chance to dig into. From what I gather, that's no big deal; in transplanting it to Hong Kong, Joe Ma has rebuilt it from the ground up.

Sasori/Scorpion is Nami Matsushita (Miki Mizuno), prisoner #701 at the nastiest women's prison you'll ever see. Timid coming in, she learned how to fight and kill well enough to handle Dieyou, the most lethal woman there. For that, she's strung up and left outside to die, but found by the Corpse Collector (Simon Yam), who refines her fighting skills before turning her out. She'll make her way back to the city, where she intends to track down the team of assassins that forced her to murder the sister of her fiancé, Detective Hei Tai (Dylan Kuo) - but doesn't anticipate encountering the amnesiac Hei Tai himself.

There's a lot going on in Sasori; it certainly feels like writer/director Joe Ma has taken a long-running manga series and attempted to cram a large chunk of it into a single feature-length film. He does a better job of it than most; where this could just become a string of events, fights, and bizarre characters strung together to hit familiar notes, Ma always keeps the focus on how Nami is outwardly being systematically broken down and reshaped into an instrument of vengeance, but also clearly has always had this potential within her nature from the start.

The thing is, what drives Nami isn't really revenge. In this version, at least, it comes down to her being a survivor, and it's interesting to watch Miki Mizuno early in the movie as Nami discovers this about herself. She's initially horrified by what she'll do in the name of self-preservation, but gradually accepts it until she's become something of a monster. The monster, unfortunately, isn't quite as interesting as the girl in transition; she talks tough and determined, but there's not enough of Nami's old self peeking through to make her much more than a generic sword-wielding bad girl.

In fact, once Nami starts fighting back, the movie becomes something of a mess. The master villain and his apprentice that she's chasing have something to do with illegal organ transplants, and doesn't tie into the reappearance of Hei Tai as an amnesiac musician at all. It does supply Nami with four deadly fighters to fight one by one - the same crew as in the beginning, naturally - each with their own distinctive looks, weapons, and peccadilloes. At that point, there's not much more to do but sit back and enjoy the fight scenes.

The fight scenes are pretty good, of course. The nastiest come in the beginning, as Nami fights her fellow inmates, but all of them play out with some urgency. The hits come hard and fast; as much as the movie has become a mess, it's a slick mess; each shot looks nice, and you can follow what's going on without the style getting in the way. Ma doesn't stint too much with the blood and mayhem, either.

"Sasori" seems like the sort of story that would work best spread out over a number of installments, and trying to cram this much story into one movie doesn't do it many favors. As good as the first "women in prison" half is, the second often seems random, and might have worked better as a sequel.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=17631&reviewer=371
originally posted: 09/23/08 16:36:29
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Fantasia Film Festiva For more in the 2008 Fantasia Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/15/10 Ashley This was a very excellent movie. It was breath taking & it pulled me in from the beginning. 5 stars
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Directed by
  Joe Ma

Written by
  Ka Wing Lee
  Joe Ma

  Ryo Ishibashi
  Dylan Kuo
  Lam Suet
  Sam Lee
  Miki Mizuno
  Simon Yam

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