Zero Woman: Dangerous Game

Manga author Tohru Shinohara’s (Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion) character is back for the sixth installment in the Zero Woman franchise. Nana (Japanese AV model/actress Ichiho Matsuda) is the mistress of a black market organ-smuggling crime boss and she’s decided to come clean in return for police protection. Rei (Japanese AV model/actress Chieko Shiratori; Eko Eko Azarak II, Eko Eko Azarak TV) has been assigned to protect the spoiled brat while the Zero Department investigates her story. Central Park Media’s Asia Pulp Cinema brings Zero Woman: Abunai Yugi to America as Zero Woman: Dangerous Game. 

DVD: Zero Woman: Dangerous Game
Release Date: 4/5/2005
Release Studio: Central Park Media / Asia Pulp Cinema
ADR Production: Mercury Productions

MSRP: $9.99
Audio: English 2.0 DD, Japanese 2.0 DD
Subtitles: English
Episodes: 1
Runtime: 80mins
Extras: Photo Gallery, Zero Woman trailers

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.

Masahi Kaneda is the crime boss of a black market organ-smuggling syndicate. Using connections in different levels of the government, the operation has been acquiring organs from unwilling patients, stealing from the sick and even kidnapping healthy individuals. Rei sneaks into the coroners lab where she finds the medical examiner carving up a body for the mob. A few quick shots and the room is cleared of the living. Mutoh (Daisuke Ryu; Ran, Zero Woman: The Hunted) debriefs Rei on the syndicate’s operations and who she will be guarding while the police corroborate the witness’s story. Mistress to crime boss Masahi Kaneda (Masayoshi Nogami), Nana could be very valuable in bringing down the organization. Rei takes her assignment and arrives at Nana’s apartment, which is already under heavy police protection.

Nana is a short, spoiled woman who loves nothing more than to torture those around her. For the unfortunate guy who’s been stuck in the room with her, that means trying to make the guy have an opinion on uncomfortable subjects, such as which of the two women is more beautiful. The Zero Woman, on the other hand, stands unfazed by any approach Nana takes. Kaneda orders his men to bring Nana back, resulting in a large gunfight inside the apartment. Rei and Nana survive the attack as the remaining henchmen retreat. With the apartment compromised, Rei takes Nana back to her own secluded home at the top of an abandoned apartment complex. Nana manages to turn whining into an art as she repeatedly tries to break the assassin’s emotional wall of solitude.

Meanwhile, Kaneda is displeased with his men’s failure to bring back Nana, but he has another toy to play with. Kaneda is a lover of both men and women. Since Nana has left, Natsume (Terunori Miyazaki) has become the target of his affection. The crime boss is an eccentric fellow who likes to crossdress and seduce the unwilling Natsume nightly since Natsume is too much of a coward to resist. As Rei and Nana live together, an Odd-Couple-type relationship forms from the sullen Rei and outgoing Nana. Nana tries constantly to break Rei’s sulking exterior by cooking for her and trying to get the assassin to open up about more personal subjects. As the Zero Department finds a high-ranking official who needs the smuggling operation to save his daughter’s life, Nana gets tossed aside in the closing of the case. Matoh orders Rei to forget about protecting Nana, but Nana still fears for her life since she betrayed the syndicate, giving up more than just her story of their operation.

Zero Woman: Dangerous Game is an odd title, and I’m not just referring to the character of Kaneda. Most of the film focuses on the unusual relationship between Rei and Nana while the organ smuggling mess takes a backseat. It isn’t terrible, but it’s also not much of a Zero Woman title where you expect lots of gunplay. The ending redeems the title some, but not enough for me to forgive the hints of a crime-syndicate plot that gets shelved until the last fifteen-minutes of the film. There is plenty of nudity to enjoy, as Ichiho and Chieko spend several scenes topless and the sex scenes between Nana/Natsume and Nana/Rei are fairly entertaining. Chieko Shiratori provides a decent Rei, as she’s constantly influenced by Nana’s attempts to bring a smile to her face. Ichiho Matsuda is quite good as the spoiled brat who exists to annoy you until you crack. And there’s something to be said for how disturbing Masayoshi Nogami looks in bondage drag and other female attire. The English production by Mercury Productions isn’t inaccurate by any means, but the work can come off as a little goofy at times. Like watching fans perform Rocky Horror, some of the English cast can get into the roles and be a bit more b-movie-over-the-top than the original cast on-camera. It’s at least worth checking out Pink Champale’s little noises when Nana makes silly faces.

Zero Woman: Dangerous Game isn’t without some hard-boiled action, but the main focus of the film is probably not what the regular girl-with-gun fan would expect. For an MSRP of $9.99 (even cheaper if you look around online), it’s worth grabbing just for Chieko and Ichiho spending a good amount of screentime topless and their Odd Couple relationship blossoming. The video is hardsub-free and clean, but it suffers some from the fact that the Japanese originally filmed this on early DV-cam equipment. Some of the gunfight scenes can get very grainy with red and blue dots because DV camcorders have trouble in rooms with poor lighting. The subtitles are error-free, though they have a slight transparency to them unlike most Central Park Media titles. The DVD extras available are a slideshow of movie stills and trailers for the four Central Park Media licensed Zero Woman titles. Zero Woman: Dangerous Game has the beautiful Chieko Shiratori to watch for eighty minutes, but the title is closer to Will Rei Smile? than Dangerous Game.