For the Fanboys and girls of Fantasia International Film Festival, the screening of Kern Saxton’s Sushi Girl was the ultimate premiere (in fact it was so packed that even press had trouble getting in), but whether it lived up to expectations is debatable. Why so much hype, you ask? Oh just because of its geek-studded cast, namely Mark Hamill (Star Wars), Noah Hathaway (The Never Ending Story), James Duval (Donnie Darko, Doom Generation), Sonny Chiba (Immortal Combat) and Tony Todd (The Candyman is also an executive producer).
Fish (Noah Hathaway) gets released from his six year prison sentence and is immediately re-united with his gang of diamond thieves, lead by Duke (Todd) in a faux-Asian Temple of doom. Accused of hiding the diamonds that were lost in a pre-prison heist, he is in turn tortured by the answer-seeking clan members, each using their own stylistic device. A beautiful woman (Cortney Palm) is hired as a sushi serving dish, who mustn’t make a peep as the men eat off of her body, and she can’t help but remain a looming presence as she silently witnesses the gruesome events that the evening produces.
Regardless of one’s strain to find redemption, the film reads as an overzealous attempt at badass cocaine-infused viscera, with exaggerated performances that imitate Tarantino, Guy Ritchie and Robert Rodriguez (i.e. Kill Bill, Reservoir Dogs, Grindhouse, Snatch), to the point of parody. Rather than utilizing an authentic approach, it seems that Kern was trying to re-create something that has been exhausted. The script, while surely containing the offensive, waggish humor typical of its genre, again barely brought anything fresh to the surface. At one point, Mark Hammil’s character, Crow, refers to Asians as “soy n*ggers,” and there was even a Mom joke tossed in for…flavor?
The talent pool contained exceptional potential, yet was constrained to a chlorified above ground swimming device rather than a free flowing expansive body of water. Hammil channeled a clown-like Phillip Seymour Hoffman/ Truman Capote character, but overplayed his whininess like a spoiled birthday girl. Andy Mackenzie’s biker Max, a huffing and puffing werewolf rather than a bitter bad boy, and Todd’s Duke a snarling monotonous snake. Talent was apparent, but all strained criminal theatrics rather than relaxing into the underground world of theft.
Sushi Girl is the perfect example of “good on paper,” as from the outside, it gets everything right. The cast, cinematography, and music (Shirley Bassey’s “Diamond’s are Forever” secured a spot on the soundtrack) were firmly in place within the sugary canon of action-thrillerdom. The narrative structure itself was strong–a mysterious woman wearing deadly blowfish on her ta-ta will always be more than enough to keep an audience engaged. The repartee was outrageous, and the violence that included chopsticks, glass bottles, and brass knuckles, enough for me to tear at the pages of my notebook during the screening. Yet in the end if a structure has weak support it is destined to crumble–regardless of its glitzy paint job .