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by Jay Seaver

"Action-packed and funny B-movie perfection."
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2008 FANTASIA FESTIVAL: How much of a blast is "X-Cross"? At one point, noting character names for future reference, I put "Reika - insane lolita wields giant scissors" down in my notebook - and she's basically a side note to the film's main action-packed storyline!

We hit the ground running, as Shiyori (Nao Matsushita) finds a ringing cell phone in a closet of the hot-spring resort she's staying at, and hears something along the lines of "run! quickly! they'll cut off your leg!" when she answers it. In no time flat, she's strung up in front of a crowd as someone gets set to swing a big axe. Then it's flashback time, as we see Shiyori and her friend Aiko (Ami Suzuki) arriving at this very secluded hot spring, with Shiyori looking to get away after a break-up. Once we're caught up, it's something close to non-stop action as the voice on the phone tells us that the village's residents are descendants of a cult who folklore says would cut off their wives' legs to keep them from leaving - but who is this voice, and can he (or anyone) be trusted? And just what is up with that nutjob with the giant scissors (Shoko Nakagawa), anyway?

X-Cross is a film that implores you to just sit back and enjoy the ride, but it happily doesn't count on the audience taking things for granted. It's pure B-movie fun, yes, packed with pretty girls, ugly redneck cultists, blood, sharp and ridiculous weapons, and crazy costumes, but it's also got a story that, while simple, keeps the audience guessing. And not just in terms of having random stuff happen, but actually letting you enjoy figure things out and match them up: Everything fits together, and the back and forth jumping in time and location gives the audience several "ah-ha!" moments as they see how pieces fit together.

Often, that's by showing both ends of cell phone calls at different times, and while "how come no-one is calling the cops?" is a fair question, there are pains taken to show just how isolated the mountain village is. Director Kenta Fukasaku and screenwriter Tetsuya Oishi (working from a novel by Noboyuki Joko) keep things moving fast enough that such concerns don't come up too often, and are great at keeping up the tease mid-film - I'm not sure when the last time I've seen the "rewind" gimmick used better, for instance, as it will often include quick images of stuff that we haven't seen yet, but suddenly need.

Action is fast and furious, and the ladies actually look pretty capable doing it - honestly, Ami Suzuki handles a chainsaw as well as anyone - without looking too much like they're superhuman. Fukasaku and Oishi balance the action and humor just about perfectly; they're able to make each bit just a bit more outrageous than the last without turning the movie into a complete joke or otherwise sabotaging themselves in the process.

"X-Cross" is a great audience movie - it delivers the action-horror goods without pushing too far into nasty territory or treating the paying customers like fools. It's brilliant in its own way, doing as good a job pushing buttons as anything else in recent memory.

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originally posted: 07/13/08 02:11:59
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Fantasia Film Festiva For more in the 2008 Fantasia Film Festival series, click here.

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  N/A (NR)
  DVD: 27-Oct-2009



Directed by
  Kenta Fukasaku

Written by
  Tetsuya Oishi

  Nao Matsushita
  Ami Suzuki
  Shoko Nakagawa
  Maju Ozawa

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