Mari No Game (Japan 1996)

Rating: **
Review Date: 7/9/17
Cast: Makiko Kuno

A convoluted revenge story that's nearly impossible to follow without the aid of subtitles. From what I could tell, Mari (Makiko Kuno) is a cop-turned-assassin who is on a personal vendetta to find and kill a man named Ko, who may have been responsible for her mother's death and her father's (?) abduction. She follows his henchmen through Hong Kong and Saipan, and meets a guy who also has a score to settle with Ko's men. Since they have that in common, she naturally decides to have sex with him. The final showdown is a confusing mess of revealed secrets and shifting loyalties, but Mari manages to make it out on top with the help of bullets, blades, and grenades.

It's a typical low budget erotic action thriller that features a pointless and gratuitous sex scene approximately every eight minutes. In fact, the very first shot in the film is a close-up of Ms. Kuno's naked breasts, for no discernable reason whatsoever. The production is noticeably better than similar fare, and Makiko Kuno does a great job of selling the material. As a genre actress, Ms. Kuno is better than most and she's the only thing that keeps the film from being a complete disappointment. She's a very pretty actress who has great looking hair, a killer body, an attractive wardrobe, expressive and emotive body language, and a fiercely menacing glare. She handles a gun well, and even though her stunt work isn't totally convincing, she fully commits herself and doesn't pull her punches. She moves with athletic precision and approaches her action scenes with confidence and conviction, which is always nice to see. The film features some nice blood effects and a very impressive impalement scene, and one of the more interesting takedowns is when she strangles someone with her purse. I don't think I've ever seen that on film before. While it's far from being a great movie, my expectations were exceedingly low and I was pleasantly surprised by its relatively tasteful presentation. I just wish it had been subtitled so that I could have understood the story better.