Gonin 2 (Japan 1996)

Rating: ****
Review Date: 4/4/02
Director: Takashi Ishii
Cast: special appearance by Koichi Sato

Riveting! A true masterpiece in female action cinema courtesy of director/screenwriter Takashi Ishii. A kind-hearted steel worker vows revenge against the Yakuza for the death of his wife, so he forges himself a sword and goes on a killing spree. He also wants to buy his deceased wife the ring that she always wanted and heads off to the jewelry store to purchase it... At the jewelry store, the fates of six women intertwine when a Yakuza heist goes horribly wrong. Seizing the moment, five of the women fend off the bad guys, take the jewels for themselves, and run away. After splitting the loot, they realize it's only a matter of time before they get caught by either the police or the Yakuza, and they must decide how to deal with the situation. It naturally has a downbeat ending, but not before the girls dish out some serious punishment.

Quite possibly the best girls 'n' guns movie I've ever seen. Even though there's not a lot of girls 'n' guns action per se, the attitude of the film and the presentation of the characters are right on the mark. Director Takashi Ishii has put together a superb psychological thriller of female bonding and enlightenment through violence and horror. He actually spends time developing the female characters, and the way they react to the horror and violence that surrounds them is quite convincing. Fate and circumstance have thrown these women together, and they'll have to do whatever it takes to survive (for once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny...). All of the actresses are fantastic (not to mention beautiful), and their characters are presented as a complex combination of psychological frailty and fierce conviction strengthened by fear. It's simply mesmerizing to watch them all as they endure their ordeal and are eventually empowered by it. Great stuff!