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Red Tears

May 20, 2012

Uneven monster mayhem to celebrate an action legend

Red Rears – Kôrui (aka Monster Killer aka Sword of Blood) (2011)

Violence director Takanori Tsujimoto (Hard Revenge Milly: Bloody Battle, 2009) teams up with action legend Yasuaki Kurata. Add vampires and Yoshihiro Nishimura gore effects to complete a horror/martial arts hybrid that celebrates Kurata’s 100th screen work!

Red Tears, produced by Kurata himself, is perhaps an attempt from the star to enter the Stallone league. The 66 year old actor shows no signs of giving up, but instead got himself the most promising new talent of Japanese ultra-violence-action to direct him in a horror martial arts mixture aimed at semi-size markets (the film spread to 14 cinemas around Japan during its first five weeks, which is a decent number for a genre movie in today’s sterilized Japan).

The dream team doesn’t quite live up to the expectations, though. Kurata places himself in a supporting role as a badass lone wolf detective hunting down a seemingly supernatural killer. The main police work is left to a younger colleague (Yuma Ishigaki), plagued with poor comedian skills and an unexpected romance storyline (with Natsuki Kato) that eventually doesn’t lead anywhere. Kurata himself steps in like a rotten Wong Fei Hung whenever a stuntman is in a need of a beating.

While Red Tears has its share of merits from skillful, CGI-free gore work (once again courtesy of Nishimura) to the charismatic Kurata, it feels oddly lifeless and TV-production –like in places. This is despite the production values being a notch above the typical genre standards, with cinematography especially looking solid. Yet, for director Tsujimoto Red Tears marks a step back in terms of style and energy. The film’s strong focus on (flat) romance and comedy comes most puzzling as neither Tsujimoto nor Kurata have much to contribute to it.

The action scenes, choreographed by Kurata promotions’ own talent Hiroki Asai, come with heavy wire use and hectic camerawork. The issue is not as bad as anticipated by the film’s trailer, though real highlights are limited to the final katana match at the end of the film. Kurata himself is not quite up to his younger days, but his gray charisma and ruthless methods compensate for the shortcomings.

The film also takes a shot at the creature feature genre with slightly amusing old school monster mask work by Nishimura. Red Tears’ monsters are not strictly vampires, but oddities blessed with characteristics of blood sucking freaks, werewolves, even the looks of a beaver! Best of all: almost everything in the film is handmade from monster masks to almost amusingly painful (though slightly restrained) gore effects – something that cannot be credited to Kurata, who according to his own words, would have painted the entire film with CGI had the budget given in to it.

Red Tears is an uneven genre cocktail that doesn’t truly find its pace until the brutal and action packed final 30 minutes. For the followers of Kurata as well as fans of Tsujimoto’s superb work in the action diamond Hard Revenge Milly: Bloody Battle it’s both a bit of a disappointment and yet a wholly passable time killer. Watched with modest expectations it should provide an acceptable 90 minutes of genre mixing entertainment.

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