Kino International/Tidepoint Pictures/Viz
NEW YORK -- It's by now to be expected that Japanese action movies, especially those based on the violence-strewn manga (comic books) that have become so prevalent, sacrifice narrative coherence and credibility in favor of kinetic camerawork and cool visuals.
But this effort, directed by TV commercial director Katshuhito Ishii, is probably the first to concentrate on ... fashion. "Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl" is receiving a belated theatrical release at New York's Two Boots Pioneer Theatre, no doubt shortly before it joins its brethren in its natural U.S. home on DVD.
Displaying influences ranging from Tarantino to, well, just about everyone influenced by Tarantino (who was himself inspired by Japanese action flicks), the film is a couple-on-the-lam story. The pair in question are Samehada (Tadanobu Asano
), a yakuza who has absconded with $1 million of his gang's money, and nubile schoolgirl Toshiko (Ittoku Kishibe
), who is running away from her sexually abusive uncle. When the two literally collide in their respective fleeing vehicles, they join forces to escape both Samehada's vengeful gang members and an assassin hired by Toshiko's uncle.
Telling its story in jumbled, nonchronological and basically indecipherable fashion, the film is mainly interested in adopting a veneer of hip coolness, exemplified by the director's endless visual tricks, the usual quotient of digressively would-be amusing dialogue and primarily by the outrageous looks of the characters. From Toshiko's furs and underwear combination to the unibrowed assassin clad in a white leather suit to the increasingly ridiculous outfits sported by the menacing gangsters, the unfortunately accurately titled "Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl" comes across like an overextended music video that would leave even Madonna drooling.