REVIEW: DVD Release: Hard Revenge Milly: Bloody Battle

Film: Hard Revenge Milly: Bloody Battle
Release date: 5th April 2010
Certificate: 18
Running time: 181 mins
Director: Takanori Tsujimoto
Starring: Miki Mizuno, Hirotsugu Imamura, Mitsuki Koga, Rei Fujita, Masahiro Komoto
Genre: Action
Studio: Cine Asia
Format: DVD
Country: Japan

Come quietly or there will be…trouble. Imagine a film in which the protagonist turned the other cheek and accepted the hand that had been dealt. There would be no Ben-Hur, no Straw Dogs, no Robocop and definitely no revenge. In 2007, Takanori Tsujimoto was an aspiring director that wanted to be taken seriously. With a revenge story to tell but a limited budget, he had a trick up his sleeve - king of gore, Yoshihiro Nishimura.

Hard Revenge Milly
The not too distant future, Yokohama, in a post-apocalyptic Japan, has become a violent city beyond police control, taken over by gangs and remorseless criminals hell-bent on murderous destruction just because they can. Milly is one of the victims; her husband and child brutally murdered in front of her own tortured and mangled body, left for dead.

Awaking in a deserted hospital, she discovers her petite frame is now more machine than man, enhanced by knee guns, retractable swords embedded in various body parts, and a cleavage to kill with.

Having tracked down a member of the Jacks Brothers’, she leaves her calling card, then sits back and waits for retribution.

Bloody Battle
Its sequel, Bloody Battle, expands the story, introducing Haru, a beautiful girl seeking help from Milly in her attempt to avenge the death of her own partner.

Despite having lost her purpose in life, Milly agrees to train Haru so she may exact her own revenge. But no sooner have they begun than they are confronted by flunkeys of the departed Jacks Brothers’ who, tit for tat, want Milly dead once and for all. Not only will Milly have to overcome a foe more metal than mental, but the secret he possesses could destroy the trust Haru has for her…

Despite ambition and ultra-cool action, Hard Revenge Milly lacks plot, something improved resources still struggles to deal with when the sequel comes around. This could be worrying considering the movie lasts barely forty minutes, the sequel squeezing in it at little over eighty, but for the most part, the plot plays second fiddle to inventive bloodshed and carnage, orchestrated by Tsujimoto and mastered by Nishimura. The result is frenetic fighting replacing plot development, despite a few intriguing ideas in Bloody Battle that aren’t explored fully - Milly questions whether the memories of her past are real or just implanted by the mysterious people that rebuilt her, justifying her lust for payback.

Although the gore is top notch, excluding a few ropey effects in the first movie, it’s the choreographed fight sequences that really get the juices flowing. Tsujimoto knows where his qualities lie, and although, once again, Hard Revenge Milly suffers from some obvious wire work, Bloody Battle suggests an improvement in his directional skills, with lots of quick, short shots edited seamlessly to produce some exceptional adrenalin-inducing stand-offs. Nishimura’s trademark gore complements the often inventive and ludicrously entertaining mayhem; each gruesome demise better than the last, the final departure is a guaranteed crowd pleaser.

Due to the lack of budget, post-apocalyptic Japan is never fully explored, which is a shame, because the few glimpses on this wind-swept wasteland are a treat for the eyes. The isolation depicted is still frighteningly realistic, and it’s enough to suggest Milly has already arrived in Hell. Sadly, the primary locations, her home and an abandoned warehouse, are a little overused – it wouldn’t hurt to step outside every once in a while. Another problem is the plodding pace, especially in the first film. Reliant on flashbacks, a lot of time is spent watching Milly just sitting there contemplating. It’s hardly gripping viewing. More characters are introduced for the sequel, including a weird doctor, more of a gifted mechanic, and Haru, the girl seeking Milly’s help. The former offers intrigue but little answers, whilst Haru is merely a plot device to add a twist that’s never fully paid off. Having said that, at the very least, it invites Tsujimoto to explore this world at a later date, and that can only be a good thing.

Miki Mizuno gives a sincere performance as Milly, taking her role seriously, even if the hostilities don’t, and her fight scenes suggest a bright future in the action stakes. The other characters have enough depth, and their motives are concisely conveyed through satisfying performances. Let it be said, this is a far more serious affair than Tokyo Gore Police and The Machine Girl - it just happens to have the kind of hyper-kinetic fight scenes that splatter fans live for.

Takanori Tsujimoto is certainly a man to keep an eye on, especially if he continues his successful partnership with Nishimura (which, let’s face it, is very likely considering the workload Nishimura devours with such delight), and if he happens upon a half-decent script then that’s even better. Whether he chooses to tackle bigger projects or not, Milly’s bleak world deserves to be revisited again, sooner rather than later.

Lacking in plot but more than making up for it with inventive, superbly choreographed fight sequences and gallons of blood, Hard Revenge Milly and Bloody Battle should be watched back to back to fully appreciate a desolate world that cries out for another stopover. DW

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