Wandering Ginza Butterfly (Japan 1972)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 9/24/11
Cast: Kaji Meiko

Pop superstar Kaji Meiko is Nami Higuchi, an ex-convict trying to make a living in the tough streets of Ginza. She eventually takes a job as a nightclub hostess and has a knack for getting deadbeat customers to pay their bills. Things heat up when a Yakuza boss named Owada starts muscling in on her territory and puts her new friends in harm's way. An expert pool hustler, she arranges a billiards match to save her employer's business, but will Owada honor his end of the bargain? When all else fails, Nami finally resorts to the swift justice of the sword, in an exciting and bloody finale.

Typical of Japanese cinema, the pacing is tedious and sluggish, but the cinematography is gorgeous. Kaji Meiko is radiantly beautiful, and her forlorn gaze and burning intensity light up the screen. She is utterly fantastic to watch, and her tough girl attitude is riveting. There's little action to speak of, but when Nami cuts loose, the results are pretty spectacular. Seeing actual blood effects is always a treat, and things get quite messy at the end. They certainly don't make movies like this anymore, and based on the trailer for the film, it looks like the more violent scenes were actually edited out. It's a great looking film with a good story and good acting, but it's Kaji Meiko who sells it. Without her, I would have lost interest very quickly, which says a lot about her star power.