Gun Crazy Episode 4: The Magnificent Five Strike (Japan 2003)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 8/1/04
Director: Atsushi Muroga
Cast: Natsuki Kata, Fumina Hara, Seiji Matano, Shu Ehara, Hideto Katsuya, Rika Uesugi

A wealthy Japanese businessman doing business in Southeast Asia has his daughter (pretty Rika Uesugi) kidnapped by a group known as "The Liberation Front." They demand five million dollars for her ransom, but her father becomes incapacitated and his company refuses to come up with the money and decides to abandon her. Desperate to save her best friend, Miki (Natsuki Kato) decides to hire a band of mercenaries to rescue Eri by force. She is joined by the cool and suave gangster Takagi (awesome Seiji Matano), a pimp (Shu Ehara), a prostitute and ex-military officer (superb Fumina Hara), a helicopter pilot (Hideto Katsuya), and some random white guy named Chico. Together, they storm the bad guys' jungle base, blow lots of stuff up, and attempt to save the young girl from her fate.

Atsushi Muroga continues to grow and mature as a director, and this entry is by far the most expertly made of the bunch. Despite its B-movie conventions, the story flows well, the cinematography is excellent, Muroga's camera is always on the action, and his shots are well composed and edited. The only question I have is why the movie is called "Magnificent Five Strike" when there are six of them.... Natsuki Kato does an excellent job as the indecisive, quiet, naive, and a bit dorky Miki. Even though she's not trained as a soldier, she takes up a gun and makes some very tough decisions to save her friend. However, it's swimsuit model Fumina Hara who steals the show. Her portrayal of Kaori is splendid, and she handles a gun with fierce conviction and determination. She's very mean and tough, not to mention totally hot. Even though her fight scenes aren't that great and she has some glaring shoe continuity issues, I could watch her all day. The other team members are charming and charismatic in their own way, and ultra-cool Seiji Matano is a lot of fun to watch. Sure, the story is formulaic, overly clichéd, melodramatic, and sentimental, but the director acknowledges this and the presentation is never pretentious or self important. It's just a lot of fun with Muroga focusing on what he likes best - girls with guns, kicking ass and taking names.