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Sushi Girl
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by Jay Seaver

"Pretty girl, ugly movie."
1 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2012 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Ugh, what an unpleasant movie. Sure, it's the sort of grittily flamboyant crime flick that has an audience, but it's a hollow, mean-spirited thing that isn't nearly clever or well-executed enough to be worth it.

After serving six years, Fish (Noah Hathaway) is being released from jail for good behavior, and although his ex-wife hangs up on him when he calls, there's a car waiting for him outside the prison. It takes him to an empty space across town, where Japanophile gangster Duke (Tony Todd) is preparing a special sushi dinner as a welcome home party, with the meal served off a beautiful naked girl (Cortney Palm). And while Fish didn't give anybody up while in jail, Duke and the other guests - fey-but-sadistic Crow (Mark Hamill), thuggish Max (Andy Mackenzie), and twitchy addict Francis (James Duval) would like to know where the diamonds they stole six years ago are.

There's a good set-up here - mysteries, chances for flashbacks, the underlying tension of the witness who is often out of sight but is learning some dangerous things. The trouble is that writers Kern Saxton and Destin Pfaff spend a lot of time running in place. The scenes in the restaurant start out as a lot of posturing (guess what, Crow and Max don't like each other!) and then devolve into those two characters trying to one-up each other as torturers. While some is kind of creative, it's mostly just straight-ahead nastiness; these devices aren't used to pull secrets out or suddenly change the balance of power in the room. The tough-guy stuff and the torture is the point.

Similarly, the flashbacks to the heist aren't anything special, either. There's one more character in the gang at that point, which is never intriguing, along with a few fan-baiting cameos (it's nice for him that Danny Trejo just has to show up and brandish a machete to get applause, but it's also the work of lazy filmmakers). A good portion of time is taken up with a sort of shaggy dog story that is probably fun for the actor telling it - Tony Todd gets one of those, too - whose relevance and payoff is not what it could be.

The best hope the movie has is the cast, which is disappointing as well. Todd should be terrific here, but he's not much more than a distinctive voice and a looming presence. Noah Hathaway is actually pretty good as Fish, but gets surprisingly little to do. Mark Hamill and Andy Mackenzie are just painful to watch as competing thugs, though James Duval and Cortney Palm at least seem to be trying.

"Sushi Girl" is an ugly movie, but the point is that it doesn't have to just be ugly; it could have used that to build tension, but doesn't build anything more than nastiness.

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originally posted: 07/23/12 04:51:26
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the Fantasia International Film Festival 2012 series, click here.

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  N/A (R)
  DVD: 19-Feb-2013


  DVD: 25-Sep-2012

Directed by
  Kern Saxton

Written by
  Kern Saxton
  Destin Pfaff

  James Duval
  Noah Hathaway
  Andy Mackenzie
  Tony Todd
  Mark Hamill
  Sonny Chiba
  Danny Trejo

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