Based on the manga characer by Tohru Shinohara (Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion) comes the fourth installment to the Zero Woman franchise. Rei (Mai Tachihara; Ringu: Kanzen-ban) follows Mutoh’s orders from the Zero Department, but the working relationship between the two is becoming strained as the nomadic life of an assassin takes its toll on Rei both physically and emotionally. While gathering intelligence on a new target, Rei meets a young man willing to whore himself out for money to any man willing to pay. Taking Mitsuru (Yuujin Kitagawa; Eko Eko Azarak 2) under her care, Rei slowly begins to change now that she has a companion in her life. However, when a string of murders pop up in the area and carry the style only a professional assassin like a Zero Woman can do, Rei tries to switch back to business to clear her name. Directed by Daisuke Gotoh (Scorpion’s Revenge, Zero Woman 2) comes Zero Woman: Namae no Nai onna as Zero Woman: The Accused from Central Park Media’s Asia Pulp Cinema.
Audio: English 2.0 DD, Japanese 2.0 DD
Extras: Trailer, Photo Gallery, DVD-ROM features
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.
Life as an assassin means moving around a lot. As Rei prepares to take down her target, trying to get her apartment packed quickly is only somewhat a concern. Donning the look of an office lady, the Zero Woman sneaks into the office building her target is headed for. Rei has followed her target before and he follows his schedule without fail. Knowing that he takes a bathroom break before his meeting, Rei hides in the men’s restroom and confronts her target as he finishes taking a piss. Tadokoro is a lawyer and former public prosecutor who has used his knowledge of his former collegues to make underhanded deals. With no sympathy, the Zero Woman kills him and heads off the meet Mutoh at their usual spot.
Mutoh (Shinji Yamashita; One Missed Call TV) has a limp and dealing with a pain in the ass like Rei will drive anyone back to smoking, but Mutoh stands by his attempt to quit for now. Rei ridicules her boss over his habit before getting the keys to her next apartment. He warns that there will probably be a wait before the next mission. Later that night, Rei goes down to a local bar to get smashed and forget her troubles. A young man sits across from her, but she pays little attention to the man making out with a nerdy office worker. As Rei stumbles up the stairs outside the bar to head home, the man chases after her and snaps a poloroid. For $300, she can get the memory he knows she needs. Rei flashes some skin and the pair are soon fucking like animals in the alley.
The next day Rei goes back to the bar looking for her one night stand. She finds that the man has had the crap kicked out of him and decideds to take this stray dog home with her. Mitsuru sells his body to men to earn money, but sometimes there are people who don’t appreciate the skills he’s offering to customers. Since Rei took him in to heal up, she decides to keep an eye on him as she takes up her next assignment from Mutoh. Seiji Kadowaki works for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but he’s been selling secrets to anyone willing to pay his asking prices. Rei manages to find out a lot about her target with little effort, including a mistress he often sees. Reiko Saitoh works the bar scene and Rei easily dupes her into revealing everything about Kadowaki. Meanwhile, Mitsuru has been busy finding furniture and supplies for the apartment he now shares with Rei, but he’s still secretive in some ways. As Rei’s mission continues successfully, she finds another problem facing her all too soon as the secrets begin to reveal themselves.
Zero Woman: The Accused comes off more like two episode plots blended on top of each other. The first story focuses on Rei’s mission and what she is while the subplot is very slowly trickled in during Mitsuru’s scenes. The second story follows the serial killer in the region whose style and possible reasons match something Rei may do if she went rogue. But the killer is revealed quickly and easily as Rei stumbles upon one of the murders. Had they decided to be more stealthy and write a fully-intergrated script, the movie would have a lot more punch than it does. Writer/director Daisuke Gotoh is no stranger to Shinohara’s characters, having written the scripts for Scorpion 2 and Zero Woman 2 along with directing Scorpion’s Revenge and Zero Woman 2, but this title could have used a little more polish in the plot-development department. The soundtrack doesn’t match well with the rest of the film, with “Be My Lady” (the reference will be fairly obvious by the end of the film) being played in far too many scenes. Mai Tachihara is all right as the Zero Woman, but too much time is spent in areas Mai needs work in, like being drunk or angry. Yuujin Kitagawa is underwhelming as Mitsuru as we dive into his troubled life. Shinji Yamashita’s Mutoh isn’t bad by any means, but he also isn’t onscreen that often. The English production from Matlin Recording isn’t inaccurate, but the performances typically don’t put much effort into being anything more than reading lines on a page with the exception of Matthew Jay’s Mutoh.
Zero Woman: The Accused has great possibilities and a poor writer at the wheel. The first half of the film is worth the low MSRP for Rei stalking her prey and how she confronts Tadokoro and Kadowaki. However, after that you’re on your own if you want to see the poor serial killer plot. The Accused is also an older Central Park Media title, so a few signs and the main title will have hardsubs to explain the Japanese text. Otherwise, the video is fairly clean. The subtitles contain no errors, however one of the hardsubs misspells Reiko’s name as “Rieko.” The DVD extras are the US trailer and a slideshow of promotional photos. The DVD also has a DVD-ROM section that includes a photo gallery and the script. Zero Woman: The Accused has some solid action and plot for the first forty-minutes, but, if you’re worried about the second half of the film, you may want to rent it before buying it.