Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Wild Zero (1999)

Seen: On dvd on our projector set-up, rented from Hollywood Express in Cambridge.

I know a movie is cool when the dudes at my local rental place Hollywood Express aren't familiar with it, I felt pretty cool myself for stumping them. I know they must have been really impressed and will probably want to be my best friend now. Yup. Commissioned by my friend Ben to make a gig poster for Guitar Wolf, the band starring in Wild Zero, I was keen to see this film as soon as possible both for inspiration and because it sounded fucking RAD. Basically invading aliens are causing the human dead to rise (Plan 9-style) and it's up to punk band Guitar Wolf, their biggest fan Ace (Masashi Endô), and badass arms dealer Yamazaki (Haruka Nakajo) to take down this unexpected zombie army. It's all in the name of love, as Ace meets sweet and shy Tobio (Kwancharu Shitichai) right before the attack, and fights to save her if he can. Meanwhile Guitar Wolf's vengeful ex-manager the Captain (Makoto Inamiya) is tracking the group down with a buttload of weapons, totally unaware of the whole zombie thing.

Between the zombies, the rock and roll, the aliens, the frenetic storytelling, the hyper-stylization, the impressive attention to hair care, and the high body count, Wild Zero definitely excels in the "ridiculous" category. It's a loopy, loopy movie and you know that's just the kind of thing I like. The story itself is all over the place, with characters running back and forth between various locations and half-forgotten subplots, and audiences are likely to forget there's even an alien invasion forthcoming until UFO's are hovering directly above our heroes' heads. The script is hilarious, juggling over the top dialogue with earnest characters and a bit of a heartfelt message thrown in there. I loved the low budget effects, totally unexpected weaponization of musical instruments, and frequent outbursts of ROCK N ROLLLLLLL. I also appreciated the overall weirdness, because honestly what even is happening here? I have no idea. And that's great.

With Guitar Wolf's members oozing cool, Ace making goofy faces all the time, Captain sporting a range of hot pants, I found most of the characters extremely entertaining. To no one's surprise, Yamazaki was my favorite, because she was a take-no-shit lady who happened to hold a huge cache of weapons AND ALSO wore a super ludicrous outfit the whole time. So she was badass while making me laugh, what a neat lady. I also have to say (and spoiler alert here, I guess, if you care about the film's plot?), I thought it was cool that a trans* character became a central romantic plot point. At first when Ace learns that his new love Tobio has a penis, he freaks out and I was like "Aw man, can we not have this turn into a transphobic joke?" but then Guitar Wolf pops up to act as Ace's spiritual guide, and yells at him because love knows no borders, nationalities, or genders! Ace realizes he loves Tobio no matter what, and spends the rest of the movie trying to save her from zombies, and they end up happily ever after! It's like, the trans* thing becomes a non-issue once Ace just accepts it. A totally unexpected but definitely welcome part of this movie, I'd say.

Anyway, great job, Wild Zero. You've got rock and roll and zombies and magic and once in a while aliens, plus lots of jokes. And a guitar that's secretly a katana. There is that too.

4.5/5

Pair This Movie With: More weird movies! At various points I thought of Repo Man, Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare, and Gregg Araki films. I also think a fun pairing would be Rock n' Roll High School, since Guitar Wolf is definitely channeling The Ramones a bit here.

PS It must be said, FUCK all of the transphobic, misogynist, sexist assholes who have written about this movie online. I was trying to find Yamazaki's character name because I couldn't remember it but I wanted to talk about her, and I found myself wading through a shit ton of awful reviews of this movie (none of which named her, by the way) that were laden with so much prejudiced and offensive commentary, it made me want to cry. Everyone is awful.

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