Black Angel (Japan 1997)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 2/9/02
Written and Directed by: Takashi Ishii
Cast: Riona Hazuki

A Yakuza boss is murdered, but his illegitimate granddaughter Ikko is saved by a female hitwoman known as Black Angel. In order to protect her, Black Angel smuggles Ikko out of the country and sends her to Los Angeles to start her new life. Fourteen years later, Ikko has grown into the impossibly pretty Riona Hazuki, and she returns to Japan with vengeance in her heart. She's taken on the nickname of Black Angel and looks forward to meeting up with her savior again, but their reunion is less than friendly. The increasing violence and abuse build to a bloody crescendo where only one person can walk out alive.

Much better than most of the other Japanese girls 'n' guns genre trash that came out around the same time, but the impact of the female action elements is derailed by an unnecessary amount of violent sex and female abuse. Japanese bad guys are really into humiliating and breaking women, which is extremely uncomfortable and uninteresting to watch. On the plus side, Takashi Ishii's direction is excellent and the film looks great, although the story gets needlessly convoluted at times. Riona Hazuki is fantastic. She's gorgeous, full of spunk, handles a gun with confidence and flair, and effortlessly radiates raw anger and hatred. Just the kind of woman that turns me on and scares the hell out of me at the same time. (She's also got an incredible screaming voice.) She has so much presence and is so amazing to watch in action that it's really difficult and painful to see her get compromised by the bad guys towards the end of the film. Apart from that prolonged bit of nastiness and a truly god-awful dance number (?!?), the film is quite enjoyable to watch and offers a lot of great girls 'n' guns moments.