When I first saw the cover art for Gun Woman, I noticed a woman…naked, holding a gun. Yeah, a hot babe shooting a gun. All right. I did see that she was covered in blood, but I did not quite notice the big cut in her body. Maybe I should have noticed it after I read the synopsis:

A brilliant doctor on a quest for revenge buys a young woman and trains her to be the ultimate assassin, implanting gun parts in her body that she must later assemble and use to kill her target before she bleeds to death.

Well, that sounded stupid, but I guess that it seemed as if it could be kind of interesting. Why did the doctor have to implant the gun parts into her body? I did not expect the reasoning to necessarily make much sense, but I hoped for there to be some explanation that would allow me to suspend my disbelief. For example, maybe she needs to kill only ONE person, as opposed to an unknown number of enemies. That still sounds stupid, but it kind of makes sense in a crazy way. But then, how would that make her the ultimate assassin? I was still curious, but cautious…though not cautious enough.

After I watched this movie, I went online to see what others thought of it. There were many detractors, as I had expected, but there were a number of people who recommended it. And not as a joke, either, but real recommendations. Sure, some of them may have been playing pranks, but a few recommendations came from legitimate reviewers. I honestly don’t get it.

I have already gone through most of the problems that I had with the movie, at least in terms of plot. There are so many more complaints that I could bring up in terms of the editing, the acting, the overuse of the characters in the car, the emotionally sterile atmosphere, and the locations. But those seem to be only symptoms of what I feel is the main issue of the movie.

It would be nice if I could simply write off this movie as dumb and fun F-grade sleaze. That was what I had expected when I chose to watch it. For sure, it is dumb, but I did not find it to be fun in the slightest. And this is not simply me being bored with the movie. I have seen a bunch of dumb gore movies that I did not find to be interesting, but I could sort of understand how other people might find them to be fun. With this one, I saw primarily 80s nostalgia and easy targets for mockery, neither of which appeal to me. The one part of the movie that I genuinely enjoyed was the fight between Mayumi and Number Three, and that barely involved a gun or anyone bleeding out. Even the death at the end of that fight did not involve the guy bleeding out. It was stupid, she was naked, and it passed my questionable standards for fight choreography. That was dumb fun and it also implied that the whole hidden gun aspect was totally unnecessary.

The rest of the movie was a slog, a mixture between boring, irritating, and infuriating. The next few confrontation scenes were not fun at all. Some action movies have fight scenes that are made all the more impressive because the protagonists are injured in some way or are otherwise compromised in their fighting abilities. Their setback may give the scenes a bit more sense of urgency and suspense, and the eventual triumph of the protagonists make them come across as doubly awesome and even inspirational. I felt none of that here; all of the fights after the confrontation with Number Three came across as toned down to accommodate the injuries. The movie felt like a knife with an edge that was deliberately dulled.

I cannot even really get behind it as a serviceable T&A flick. For sure, there is quite a bit of nudity and a little bit of sex, but that would be satisfying only on an elemental level, the same way that the action scenes here exist. I guess that brief shots of naked women can be effective for whatever. The blood-soaked naked woman part…that seems more geared towards a specific audience. For most of the movie, the nudity is rather clinical. There is little titillating, erotic, raunchy, or romantic about the nudity, except for maybe that one sex scene that ends with fantasy bleeding. I have read that Kurando Mitsutake (director, co-writer, and co-editor) was not interested in portraying nudity as sexy, but as a symbolism of vulnerability. At least in terms of female nudity. Although, Mayumi was only somewhat occasionally naked in the first half of the film, and she was vulnerable there.

There are movies that may shine a somewhat disturbing light on their creators. The Room was an attempt for Tommy Wiseau to work through a bad break up…maybe. Birdemic was…I don’t know. Hoodrats 2 was a cringe-inducing attempt to indulge in the fetish of women fighting. There are simply paycheck films and tax dodges. Some movie makers are just crazy and want to share their crazy with their viewers. Others simply like flirting with dark material within the safety of fictional storytelling. With Gun Woman, the only thing that I could conclude was that Mitsutake really wanted to make a movie where a naked woman is cut open and bleeds out. I don’t know if he was working through his feelings about menstruation, but I would not be surprised.

There were many possible ways of basing a story around this idea. One could make a movie about a serial killer, or some sort of supernatural monstrosity. Mitsutake however, wanted to do something different. For one thing, serial killer and supernatural monstrosity are unambiguously bad. The Mastermind, however, is in a more gray area. Yes, he is a crazed murderer and his scheme is some supervillain-level nonsense, but the movie portrays his plan as one of necessity as opposed to plain insanity…which is utter nonsense for the reasons that I had mentioned in the summary. Ultimately, The Mastermind does not force Mayumi to carry the gun inside her; he asks and she accepts. Granted, he would have probably killed her had she refused, but during that one part of the movie, he reveals his vulnerability and even allows her to shoot him. Unlike the victims in The Human Centipede, Mayumi gets the choice to get the gun implants or kill him outright. Mayumi consciously and deliberately accepts the former.

Why does Mayumi do this? Well, as awful as The Mastermind treated her, he did free her from her addiction, make her strong, and gave her life a purpose. Every other man in her life lied to her and made her weak. The Mastermind’s abuse can be seen as positive in comparison. In a sense, he saved her and she owes him. She would have died slowly under anyone else, so why not risk her life for something? In this sense, The Mastermind is the good guy…or at least not all bad. He had forced her this far into his twisted scheme without telling her anything, but now he has opened up to her.

Now, maybe I am wrong about that. Maybe the movie was not trying to avoid portraying a naked woman bleeding out as negative. Maybe he was trying to show how two warped minds can bond over a warped mission that was wrong and probably unnecessary. Like terrorist recruitment or the Stockholm Syndrome. But this seems to be overshadowed by everything else. Hamazaki is made up to be so reprehensible and supposedly untouchable that only an insane plan would work. Granted, the movie does a terrible job at showing how untouchable he is, but maybe Mitsutake simply wanted to implant the idea that he was untouchable and did not bother with showing that to be the case because his focus was elsewhere. Either through sheer incompetence, bad management of limited funds, or apathetic laziness, the movie does a poor job of concocting a scenario where a naked woman has to bleed out. But, if the movie is able to get to that point, then all is okay. The movie itself was too lame for any of its theoretically disturbing imagery to get to me at all, but the thought of it bending over backwards to serve this point really creeps me out.

The confrontations that Mayumi had while bleeding out were not exciting at all. I suppose that her gunfight with the woman could be seen as goofy fun, but certainly not the other two. Those sequences were slow and uninspired. This is not her kicking ass all over the place, which could habe been awesome. She kills three people with the gun; not at least nine (or three dozen) as I had hoped. That could have been legitimately awesome, but no. Mitsutake seemed to be more interested in the moments between the fighting, when she is going through the bleeding out process and feeling the effects that The Mastermind had predicted. She has to power her way through them, overcoming her own predicament. I guess that maybe those moments were meant to be empowering and make the fight scenes more impressive. Again, no.

So, if the movie fails as promotion for naked women bleeding out and fails as a dumb fun movie, what else is there?

Well…maybe…it was not meant to be an awesome fun movie…or a dark girls with guns exploitation movie. Maybe it was meant to problematize the genre; taking elements that may have been used before and twisting them to reach some disturbingly logical conclusions. Maybe the movie centered itself around a woman bleeding out to show how these types of movies treat violence and women; that they are unnecessarily sexualized and brutally abused in order to excuse their violence. It deliberately took out as much of the titillation out of the nudity and the awesomeness of the fighting as possible to highlight this issue without glorifying it. Maybe the whole deal with Hamazaki and the radiation necrophilia club was deliberately made stupid to shine a light on how flimsy such excuses are in such movies to get women naked and get the guns firing.

Maybe every supposed flaw, every terrible line of dialogue, every dumb plot twist, every completely solvable impossibility, every awkward nod to the 80s, every fetishistic focus on a gun, every shot of Mayumi bleeding out, and every seemingly irrelevant reference to Japanese Manga was in service of what was actually a confrontational satire. A culture (American or Japanese) that loves sex and violence is given a movie that caters to both of those loves, stripped of what made those things so lovable. The violence is rendered uncool, a pretty woman’s naked body is made to look as unappealing as possible, the female characters are given almost no agency whatsoever until maybe towards the end (and that is debatable), and the consequences of bleeding out are made front and center so that the viewers will be unable to ignore them. It is not the director who is disturbed; what is disturbing is how the viewers of such movies find value in entertainment about degradation and brutality. This movie turns the table on the viewers and forces us to reevaluate what we find so enjoyable about these things by hollowing them out to the hardened core. If that is the case…then it is still a terrible movie and I hated almost every moment of it.

If you like movies that are terrible and have no redeeming qualities whatsoever, then you might like this movie. Personally, I really do not like this movie, but I watched it four times. Three of those times were for you, Smiffy. I hope that you are happy, because I certainly am not. Merry Christmas. Or Happy Christmas. Whatever.

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