Grind house, drive-in sleaze, retro cinema, whatever name you put on it, it seems to be the state of independent filmmaking these days. The problem is that, like any style of film, it takes talent to pull it off. It takes the love of the genre that goes far beyond imitation. When it works it’s great as in Father’s Day, hobo a shotgun, grind house, or dear God no. When it doesn’t work, it’s absolutely unwatchable filth. I’m not even going to go into a number of films that have failed because it would be like listing every found footage movie to came out last year, and I just don’t have the inclination to do so. The latest film to come out in the retro vein is in many ways the most accomplished. A Taunt little thriller about a group of criminals, missing diamonds, revenge, and a Sushi Girl.
Fish (Noah Hathaway) is getting out of prison after a six-year stretch. His first job quickly turned into his only job, but now he has a chance to get on with his life. Problem is that there are some loose ends that need tying up and he is at the center of it. He quickly realizes that his ordeal isn’t over yet when a car pulls up to take him to see his old boss played by Tony Todd. Also on hand is Francis (James Duval), Max (Andy McKenzie), and Crow (Mark Hamill). Yes the whole gang is back together except for one problem, since he was the bagman on the heist, everybody wants to know what happened to the diamonds. So here stands Fish, alone in a room full of men who literally want his money or his life, and who is the girl lying on the table covered in sushi? All secrets will be revealed by the nights end. The only question is; who will make it out alive?
Sushi girl is first rate all the way. The problem with a lot of films in a similar style is the characters are always similar, just a random collection of super tough guys battling it out, not this time. Each character stands on his own with his own personality, motivations, and idiosyncrasies. What’s great about the film is that it manages to keep you guessing throughout which is difficult with such this seemingly straightforward plot. Even better, the film does so without really giving you any red herrings. It’s just good straightforward storytelling nothing on it and nothing on the side.
The dialogue is crisp and sharp but not exaggerated. You’re not dealing with the coolest people on the planet, just a simple bunch of guys who been around the block a time or two. Same goes for the sets which are simple and real in their presentation. You can almost smell the moisture in the air, feel the wet cement of the stairs, and taste the sushi sitting on naked flesh.
Tony Todd is fantastic as Duke. Duke is the leader of the group of thieves and seems to have ascended to a classier place since their last job went haywire six years ago. His commanding presence comes into play once again in this film which is important. He’s a powerful man in a room full of powerful and dangerous men so he has to bring something extra to the table, which Tony always does.
Interestingly enough the scene stealer is Mark Hamill. His character, Crow, is the most flamboyant of the group, but also the most real. He has an way about him that screams was comic dealer. The kind of collectibles hustler you run into at Comic con. These guys do exist and though it sounds weird trust me they usually look a lot like Mark Hamill in this film. The rest of the cast is equally as good, it’s nice to see James Duval with a solid role with some substance to it.
With all this talk about the men in the film, what is it that the sushi girl actually does? Let me say that Cortney Palm is excellent in the film. Lying naked on her back for almost the entire duration, she is forced to convey nearly all of her motion through her eyes and her eyes alone. It’s a difficult and challenging role for any actor and though it’s not exactly visually spectacular, it is engrossing and most necessary to the story.
Most of the action is contained within a single room, but like reservoir dogs, the flashbacks are detailed and explosive, with a few little surprises buried within.
Sushi girl seems like a simple film at first, a low-budget heist film with some bloodshed. With it turns out to be is an explosive revenge film littered with interesting characters, visceral burst of violence, and an all-star cast. We are living in the post-Tarantino generation where his influence is felt throughout the industry. Very few films inspired by his cinematic achievements succeed on any level. Not to say that this film is directly inspired by Tarantino’s, but his spirit of filmmaking runs throughout and yet the film succeeds on its own merits. This film alone sets Kern Saxton apart from many filmmakers working today and I look forward to see what he has up his sleeve next.