Zero Woman (1995)

Original title: Zero Woman 2
Country: Japan
Director: Daisuke Gotô
Starring: Natsuki Ozawa, Saori Iwama, Kane Kosugi, Hiroyuki Watari, Hiromitsu Kiho
Music: Ryuji Murayama
Based on the Manga by Tooru Shinohara

Some of you are possibly wondering how low can I go, or am I willing to go, when watching and presenting spy films. So far I have just skirted around the border of good taste. Zeta One and Doris Wishman’s Double Agent 73 definitely had a sleazy feel to them. I have even looked at a few Jess Franco films — admittedly, they weren’t the most extreme films of the prolific director’s career, but none-the-less, there was still an ample amount of go-go dancing female flesh on display. But as I start to look at the Japanese Zero Woman films from the late ’90s, I would suggest that I have reached a new low.

Now, just to confuse you (it did me), this is not the first Zero Woman film. The first is a classic piece of Pinku Eiga (Pinky Violence) called Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs, which is quite an extreme and intense film. But Red Handcuffs aside, this is still not the first Zero Woman film from the current series of films (the last one being Zero Woman R, which came out in 2007). However this was the first of the series released in the United States.

Now is Zero Woman a spy? I don’t really know. She is an agent for the top secret Zero Department of the Police Department. The Zero Department is so top secret, most people have never heard of it, and even if they have, it is widely believed to be a myth. Being in Zero Department basically equates to having a ‘Licence to Kill’. But stylistically, though many spy story elements are in place, this film plays like a porn flick

But in the interests of continuing the Permission to Kill mandate to present spy stories from all around the world, and in the various styles that each country seems to wrap their stories in, I guess I’d better press on and see what Zero Woman has in store for me. Really, the things I do for you people! Pass the tissues.

The film looks to be shot on Hi-def video and opens in an underground carpark. Dressed in red — her signature colour — and carrying a champagne glass, Zero Woman (Natsuki Ozawa) walks to her car, which is a red convertible. But she is not alone in the carpark. At the opposite end, two men are waiting in a limousine for their boss to return. As they wait, two young kung-fu punks and a girl attack them. The punks knock out the driver and demands money from the guy in the limo. He looks like a bodyguard, so I’ll refer to him as ‘the bodyguard’. It just so happens that the bodyguard has a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist. The punks demand the case, but the bodyguard refuses. Well handcuffs don’t bother the kung-fu punks too much as they are armed with machetes. One punk hacks off the bodyguard’s arm. It’s a Japanese film, so yes, there is an aerterial blood spray (all over the window).

Zero Woman armed and ready for action

The bodyguard cries of pain attract the attention of Zero Woman. She drives down to the other end of the carpark. Meanwhile, the kung-fu punks kick the armless bodyguard out of the car and speed off with the briefcase — which happens to be filled with millions of dollars worth of stocks. Zero Woman takes a shortcut and blocks the exit so the punks cannot escape. She steps out of her car and armed with a revolver, demands the briefcase.

The leader of the kung-fu punks pulls a gun and starts firing. Zero Woman takes shelter behind a concrete pillar. The second kung-fu punk isn’t happy that this robbery is escalating into a gunfight — sure, he’s happy to be involved in some simple limb lopping; but when the guns are drawn he has a change of conscience. He begins to wrestle the gun away from his partner, but unfortunately this just puts him in harms way and Zero Woman pumps a slug into his shoulder.

By this time, the armless bodyguard has caught up with the action, and (presumably) mistaking Zero Woman for one of the kung-fu crew, with his remaining arm, he hits her from behind with some kind of pole he has found. He then tries to kill Zero Woman. The kung-fu bandits use the distraction to climb back in the limo, reverse, and then drive away.

Now, so far this film had seemed rather spyish – albeit low budget, bloody, spyism. But now the film shows it’s true colours. As Zero Woman and the bodyguard wrestle, she finds her gun and aims it at the aggressor’s face. She asks if he believes in heaven and then pulls the trigger. We don’t see the impact, but we see the shower of blood cover Zero Woman. In the next shot, we see her behind the wheel of her car driving home, still covered in blood. While driving, she produces a cloth or a tissue and begins cleaning her face — then once that’s done, she releases the shoulder straps on her dress, allowing it to fall to her waist. She then begins to clean her bloodied breasts while driving.

Most spy films have a mission briefing scene where the agent receives his or her instructions detailing the objectives (and possibly targets) of the assignment. Zero Woman has this kind of scene too, but it is played a little bit differently to the standard office or conference room with a world map in the background type sequence. After returning home, Zero Woman has a long, hot, shower to clean away the last of the blood. The shower scene affords the cameraman a great opportunity to linger on her breasts. And linger. Then she believes she hears someone in her apartment. Luckily, next to the towel rack in the soap holder, she has a pistol wrapped in gladwrap (so it won’t get wet). She grabs the pistol and walks to the door and opens it. Her boss is standing there with a bunch of roses (it’s her birthday).

Zero Woman with a 'water pistol'

The boss then tosses her a pair of underpants and then reprimands her for allowing the briefcase full of stocks to be stolen. Of course, her mission is to investigate and retrieve the stocks.

Zero Woman, as a film, revels in it’s depiction of sex and violence. Other violent and sleazy highlights (for those of you who aren’t queasy of stomach) include; interrogation with a meat hook, a machete fight on the streets, female characters raped and chained, and the films highlight, — watching a bullet being removed from Zero Woman’s inner thigh as she is gagged and bound to the bed. It’s pretty repellent stuff. The whole thing would be abhorrent really, if someone was silly enough to take it at all seriously. And let’s be honest here, the video cover art (as above) is pretty accurate really — it looks cheap and features a scantily clad lady with a gun. And essentially that’s what’s on the disc. If you’re the type who is drawn to images (and movies) like that, then maybe Zero Woman will deliver the goods for you. It’s certainly not pretending to be anything else.

As it is, I have probably said too much and made this film seem more interesting than it really is. But Zero Woman will return.

Yes, for the trivia hounds among you, Kane Kosugi is the son of Shô Kosugi!

Images from Videowatchdog’s Hong Kong Digital

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