Toronto After Dark, Day 7: Sushi Girl
Previous to watching the double header of Sushi Girl and Dead Sushi at the festival, I had never heard of nyotaimori (literally “female body presentation”), more commonly known as body sushi or naked sushi. In a practice that is sure to raise a few questions about food safety, sushi and sashimi is artfully presented upon a woman, who must lie perfectly still throughout the meal. This information I relate mainly for informational purposes, as it pertains very little to the plot of Sushi Girl, aside from explaining why many shots in the film contain a naked girl covered in fish.
Sushi Girl at its heart is a love letter to the films of Quentin Tarantino, and desperately wants to be the next Reservoir Dogs. From the selections of smooth 70s music that punctuates the soundtrack to the dark décor that mixes divey with the Ming Dynasty, the film gives off super-cool grindhouse vibe. Enough blood is spilt to satisfy any gorehound, and a lot of time is spent on a torture scene that is as brutal as I’ve seen in a while, and a far cry from Mr. Blonde dancing and cutting.
The cast is a standard selection of criminal mugs. Noah Hathaway is Fish, who is just getting out after serving six years for his part in a diamond heist gone wrong. Tony Todd is thuggish and menacing as Duke, the leader and organizer of the dinner party. James Duval plays Francis, now out of the biz and wanting nothing to do with what’s going down. The gang is rounded out by the violent and feral Max, played by Andy Mackenzie, and Crow. Crow is played by Mark Hamill, channelling a lot of the same energy he put towards his brilliant portrayals of the Joker in the animated series and video games. He is equally on his game here, effete, sadistic, and clearly somewhat unbalanced as he constantly slings barbed witticisms towards the dangerous Max.
The diamonds from the heist were never recovered, and Duke thinks Fish (as the bagman) knows what happened to them. He’s happy to do whatever it takes get the information from him, and for the most part the others are happy to go along with this plan, if only because it lets them get some quality violence in. With a couple techniques I haven’t seen before, the torture process is cringe-inducing and extremely graphic, sensitive viewers beware.
Despite everything going for it Sushi Girl ends up feeling like a wasted opportunity. Great style, great cast with cameos from cult favorites, pretty naked girl covered in delicious Japanese food, what more can you ask from a movie? Where things really stumble is in the story itself. What happened during the heist is revealed to the audience through flashbacks, and as the story unfolds and finally draws to a conclusion, you don’t have to think very hard to realize that a great deal of what you just saw doesn’t makes sense. As the name would suggest, the sushi girl does eventually factor into the plot, but in a way that I can’t describe as anything but ludicrous.
Reservoir Dogs is my favourite Tarantino film, and I had high hopes for Sushi Girl. And while there are some things to like here, the payoff left my scratching my head and, much like the girl on the table, unmoved. 2.5 out of 5 stars.