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Hard Revenge, Milly
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by Jay Seaver

"A lean, mean revenge machine."
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2009 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: "Hard Revenge, Milly" is as lean and mean a revenge tale as they come: At 44 minutes, many of them filled with bloody action, it knows what the audience wants and delivers the goods without screwing around. Because it's so tight, it probably won't see the light of day in the U.S. except as a special feature when and if its longer sequel hits home video, but it stands alone very well - you won't do much better looking for a quick action hit.

The future's a rough time; Tokyo is a wasteland being swallowed by the desert, but there's still some life in Yokohama. Unfortunately, the city is dominated by the Jack gang, who brutally murdered Milly's husband and daughter a year ago, leaving her to die. Now, Milly (Miki Mizuno) has returned, she's out for blood, and has both the skills and the cyborg parts to help her extract it from Jack (Mitsuki Koga) and the rest of his gang.

As Japanese action-gore movies go, that's not especially far-out, and the production values don't initially hint at anything special: It's a fairly empty-looking world that does very little to even attempt to look like the future, other than be full of rusty metal and relatively devoid of people. Filmmaker Takanori Tsujimoto is clever with his small budget, though, and there's a sensible if gruesome practicality to what he does manage. He'll put a shotgun inside of one of Milly's limbs, but it won't be a shiny work of destructive art; it'll jam, get beat up, and run out of ammunition.

That doesn't make "Hard Revenge, Milly" a realistic action-gore movie, but it does show that Tsujimoto takes his world a little more seriously than other people making this kind of movie. He also executes everything a little (or a lot) better, and if you add enough of those small upgrades together, you get a movie that is, in total, a lot better than its peers. The blood and the story service each other, with Tsujimoto choosing to give the audience some investment in the characters rather than making jokes of things.

Having Miki Mizuno playing the title character helps. She's a little older than the schoolgirl-looking stars many of these movies favor, and lets herself look kind of weathered. She does a fine job of convincing us that Milly is numb to the violence around her, though flashbacks display hints that she is capable of more than just "brooding anti-hero". Just as importantly, she's a pretty good screen fighter, doing her own stunts, not looking ridiculous with a gun or sword in her hand, and selling her action scenes well enough that Tsujimoto can use the occasional wide and/or long shot. Mitsuki Koga does fine as the antagonist, a little heavy on the "just insanely evil" characterization, but he makes Jack seem smart and cruel enough to be a worthy adversary, and works well with Mizuno in the big fight scene.

It's a shame there's not more of a place for films of this length, because it's a great little action piece that doesn't need to be any longer. It's got all the shooting and slicing of bigger action movies in a more compact, exciting form.

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originally posted: 08/21/09 11:56:18
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Fantasia Festival For more in the 2009 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

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Directed by
  Takanori Tsujimoto

Written by
  Takanori Tsujimoto

  Miki Mizuno
  Tetsuya Nakamura
  Hiroshi Ohguchi

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