Based on the manga characer by Tohru Shinohara (Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion) comes the third installment to the Zero Woman franchise. Rei (Japanese AV model Kumiko Takeda; Close Your Eyes and Hold Me), Zero Woman, has reached her limit on wanting to work for the special Zero Division of the police department. However, Rei is an assassin and is in the middle of an assignment, which means she can’t walk away just yet. The only early way out for the Zero Woman is to die in the line of fire. But when a fellow assassin, Katsumura (Keiji Matsuda), foils Rei’s attempt at suicide by shootout, the Zero Woman is renewed in wanting to kill all of her targets to end this mission. Central Park Media’s Asia Pulp Cinema brings Zero Woman III: Keishicho 0-ka no onna to America as Zero Woman: Assassin Lovers.
Audio: English 2.0 DD, Japanese 2.0 DD
Extras: Assassin Lovers Trivia, Trailer, Meet the Cast, DVD-ROM features, Previews
Notes: Review is based on a Screener copy of the final product. The video is letterbox (non-anamorphic widescreen), the screencaps have been cropped to reduce the amount of black bars shown.
Two men celebrate after robbing the mayor’s office of important documents so that their boss Daidohji will have even more control over the inner workings of the city. But these two men didn’t plan very well, because the Zero Woman has been waiting for them. In a few shots, one man is on the ground bleeding from his temple while the other takes several rounds in the chest. The man on the ground reaches out towards Rei, but she does not fire again. She leaves him to bleed out, but the Zero department’s boss, Takefuji (Tokuma Nishioka), drives by and finishes the job. Rei’s boss scolds her for not finishing the job, but it’s obvious that Rei wants out of the assassin business. Takefuji explains that she will need to finish this last mission before she can walk away. Rei responds by throwing her gun down and driving off.
Throwing darts in a bar, Rei seems lost in the confusion of what to do. A man upstairs spots her and her deadly aim on the dart board. Coming down to flirt, he uses the throwing the darts with equally deadly accuracy to spell out “fool.” Rei asks what the dart player does for a living, and Katsumura reveals that he is a “bad guy,” as assassin. Rei remarks she is a “good” assassin, and the two find themselves getting a room together soon after. The foreplay between the two contract killers mixes between skill and lust as each suspects the other of trying to kill. Having proved herself just as capable between the sheets, the two part ways to continue their jobs. At her own home, Rei notices that someone broke in and finds her boss has left documents about her next targets. Rei has no choice but to continue a little longer with the Zero Department.
That night, Rei dresses up and goes to the nightclub where her next target is having some drinks. As she walks into the room, Rei unloads her gun, not actually aiming that well. Katsumura, the body guard for Rei’s target, draws his own weapon and wounds her enough that Rei collapses to the ground. As the men leave, Katsu takes Rei to a safe place to bandage her up. Of course, Tomomi (Mari Nishina) isn’t completely thrilled with Katsu bringing an unknown woman into her place, but she agrees to let Rei stay long enough to heal up some. The next morning, Tomomi happily fills Rei in on some details of what a nice guy her Katsu is, but doesn’t seem to know what he really does for a living. As Rei leaves the apartment, Katsumura is waiting in the hallway and remarks how sad it is for someone to obviously attempt suicide and to make him be the triggerman. Rei stumbles away and goes to a park bench elsewhere in the city, where her boss finds her. With yet another conversation about Rei’s pathetic attempt at suicide, the Zero Woman gets quite pissed off. Rei is going to finish this mission and people are going to pay dearly for it.
Daidohji (Charlie Yutani) worrys about the Zero Woman taking out his most important people, but Sayako (Marie Jinno; Tokyo Decameron, Fudoh: The New Generation) assures her boss that she’s hired an excellent assassin to take down the Zero Woman. In a warehouse, Rei finds Goda and easily takes out all the targets and the support crew without hesitation. Katsumura hear’s the gunfire and tries to take down Rei. As the two chase after each other into the storage area, Rei is not afraid of playing mouse to lure the cat into an open shot. Katsumura realizes he’s in over his head and draws a stalemate until the cops arrival gives him the excuse to run away.
Rei dresses up as a secretary and infiltrates Daidohji’s own building to take on her next targets, but one of the men suspects the woman as being up to no good and joins her elevator ride up. With only a few questions he knows Rei is a Zero Woman and tries to take her out himself. Luckly, Rei is still better and manages to get away before security can catch up. Daidohji is spooked and goes into hiding with Sayako’s help. Rei stakes out Daidohji’s home, waiting for him to return; meanwhile, Katsumura breaks into Rei’s apartment, waiting for her to come home.
Zero Woman: Assassin Lovers starts off fairly campy, but it manages to redeem itself after the thirty-minute mark. The movie focuses heavily on action, violence, and blood as the things to keep you going as Rei becomes the assassin she was born to be once again. The ending works very well with the rest of the film, as does the Mexican standoff between Rei, Katsumura, and Takefuji. The music has an interesting touch with a harmonica and acoustic guitar to play something reminiscent of a 60′s Western. It fits well, just like the similar musical style used in some of Cowboy Bebop’s episodes. Japanese model, singer, and adult video star Kumiko Takeda proves early on that she has a real talent for acting, as Rei is one of the better performances in the long-running series. Kumiko also provides some very nice eye candy as Rei strips down for her sex scene with Katsumura. Sadly, the sex scene is pretty corny and probably could have been left out. Keiji Matsuda is fair as Katsumura, but more often than not you will focus less on his character and more on Rei. The English production by Bang Zoom! Entertainment is fairly cheesy with only moderate success trying to match the lip flaps of the characters. The mixing of the voices with the background music/sound effects can also be more than a bit off at times. Dorothy Melendrez would make an interesting Zero Woman in an animated film, but with some poor choices here—mixing, direction, script—she just isn’t very believable as Rei. The cast only goes downhill from here.
Zero Woman: Assassin Lovers is a decent addition to the Zero Woman line and provides a lot of bang for your buck. The low price and excuse to watch Kumiko Takeda run around with a gun for ninety minutes is well worth the MSRP. The title is one of Central Park Media’s older catalog numbers, so there are a handful of hardsubs for signs, but it isn’t enough to be an issue. The video transfer is good, but the original source material can often look grainy due to age and the poor film used in shooting. The subtitles present no errors. The DVD extras include a trivia game, character profiles, and the U.S. trailer for the movie. Zero Woman: Assassin Lovers brings girl-with-gun action with it in countless ways as Rei takes down her targets. It’s worth taking the time to track down a copy to enjoy with some friends needing a different type of action film to enjoy.