Zero Woman 5 (Japan 1997)

Rating: **
Review Date: 9/10/99
Alternate Title: Zero Woman: The Hunted (U.S. Title)
Cast: Mikiyo Ohno

I don't know what I was thinking. After seeing Chieko Shiratori's stunning performance in "The New Metropolitan Police Branch 82", I decided to have a "Zero Woman" marathon over the weekend, made up of what I believe to be parts five, six, and seven (the only ones I could find). Surprisingly, this one wasn't too bad, and I actually found myself interested in what was going on (are my standards slipping THAT bad?). In this film, a new and different Zero Woman shows up with a dark and haunting past. A past tradegy tore her sister away from her at a young age, and she still bears the psychological scars. The story definitely has a "La Femme Nikita" feel to it, as Zero Woman is more of a government assassin than an investigator. She even falls in love with someone and has to cope with the problem of managing both a relationship and her secret job as a killer. Not very original, but it adds to the already overwhelming amount of trauma that the woman is dealing with. Towards the end, we find out that her sister is also an assassin, and Zero Woman's boss pits them against each other for whatever sinister reasons I couldn't determine. She ends up killing her and then turns her gun on her boss and fires, but the final outcome is unclear. A clever, but maddening way to end the tale.

Don't get me wrong - this no budget, shot on video movie is still far from good filmmaking, and it suffers from dreadful handheld camera work, pathetic (but plentiful) action sequences, and a derivative porno jazz soundtrack. However, it has just enough intensity and creative nuances to make it interesting, and the lurid softcore sex scenes are kept to comfortable minimum (all of which just barely bumps it into the two star category). The actress playing Zero Woman (Miyoko Ohno) this time around is perfect for the role and does a great job. She does tragic angst really well, and handles a gun nicely. She's not as cute as some of the other Zero Women in the series, but it doesn't detract from the impact of her intensely cold, detached, and psychologically fragile performance. Too bad the action sequences are SO poor, but I've got to hand it to the filmmakers for delivering one of the most interesting assassination techniques I've seen in a long time. One of the women (posing as a prostitute, of course) rubs poison on her breasts right before making love to her victim, so as he goes down for a mouthful of mammary delight, he recoils back in a vomitting spray of blood as the poison takes effect. Now THAT'S entertainment.