Zero Woman: Final Mission (1995)

Zero WomanCountry: Japan
Director: Kenji Enokido
Starring: Naoko Iijima, Wataru Takasagi, Misayo Haruki, Hidetoshi Okamoto, Miho Suzuki, Toshihiko Hino
Music: Shigeru Umebayashi

Zero Woman returns once again, and despite this film’s title, this would not be her final mission, just another in the long line of cheap, exploitative ‘semi-spy’ films from Japan. I say ‘semi-spy’ because Japan seldom makes straight spy films. Their operatives are usually police officers working for special ‘secret branches’ of the force. In this instance, Rei or Zero Woman if you prefer, works for Section Zero – an ultra secret division of the police force that takes on the criminals that the regular police cannot tackle.

The film opens in a nightclub and a table of shady looking types are thanking a gentleman named Mr. Ogato for his assistance in obtaining some work visas for a few men. Ogato gratefully accepts a wad of cash for his efforts. Then a gorgeous woman walks into the club, dressed in a figure-hugging white dress, with a feather boa wrapped around her shoulders and neck. This is, as you would have no doubt guessed, is Rei, Zero Woman (Naoko Iijima)

Ogato asks, “Who is the babe?”

“Your date,” she responds, and removes the feather boa, revealing a low cut top.

Tucked in her cleavage is a pistol. The table of thugs panics. She shoots one minion, and another scarpers. She then places her gun on the table in front of Ogato. It turns out he is not a gangster but a crooked cop from Division Four. Ogato reaches across the table and picks up her gun, but is too slow, as Zero Woman drops to one knee, and retrieves another pistol from her garter belt. She shoots and kills the corrupt cop.

Naoko Iijima as Rei (Zero Woman)

Afterward she reports to HQ, and assigned to track down a serial killer who escaped while the police were transferring him to a maximum security prison. He tracks him down by staking out his daughter. When he returns to see her, Zero Woman confronts him. He grabs his own daughter and holds a knife to her throat. Zero Woman once again gives up her gun, but as the killer reaches for it, she produces another pistol, which she had hidden on her personage somewhere, and shoots him dead.

Next day, Zero Woman takes the serial killer’s now orphaned daughter to a special school where she will be looked after. Upon arrival, however, a press conference is going on. Yumi Ogasawara heads a charity which supports the school. Yumi also happens to be the daughter of an overprotective politician.

We find out a bit more about Yumi – in particular, her social life. When we next see her she is in a hotel room with a guy, and she asks him to torture her. We next see her bound to the bed.

Then later, we see her with a new guy. She drives him somewhere secluded and disrobes. Once again, she asks to be tortured. But this guy balks at the kinky stuff. He calls her a ‘perverted bitch’ and walks away. Still naked, she slips behind the wheel of the car, and then pursues him, finally running him down.

This vehicular homicide happened to be witnessed by Detective Oda and Zero Woman, but by the time they arrived at the scene, Yumi had driven off and disappeared. When the case is handed over , for others to investigate, rather than murder it is cited as a simple hit and run. Both Oda and Zero Woman are told that they are seeing things.

Zero Woman doesn’t take it to heart. She has been around a while, and knows that some cover up or conspiracy taking place. Oda, however, feels that justice is not being served and begins to look more deeply into the matter. Suddenly the hitmen come out of the woodwork gunning for both Oda and Zero Woman (even though she is staying away from the case).

But when Oda is killed, and a hitman comes calling on Zero Woman when she is taking a shower (a perfect opportunity for some gratuitous nudity), she realizes that she has to find out what is really going on, if she is going to survive.

Gratuitous nudity is a hallmark of the Zero Woman series

This film really has very little to recommend it, and once again, like many of the other Zero Woman films, it doesn’t really feature that much espionage, in this case it is more of a story about a corrupt politician. But there is one sequence that is so bat-shit insane and surreal it almost makes the film worth viewing for this sequence alone. In the scene, Zero Woman has been captured, and rather than just killing her, the bad guys have on their payroll a malignant little dwarf named Mr. Renfield. Renfield seems to be a jailer and torturer, and it is his job to have as much twisted pleasure with his captives as he can. This involves a lot of twisted B&D scenes which I won’t outline here, and some automated binding machine. When Renfield starts humping the leg of a deformed statue, while one of his devices goes to work on Zero Woman, the film presents one of the great WTF moments. If it wasn’t for the presence of Zero Woman, I would almost suggest this scene belongs in another film.

The Zero Woman films that have been given an American release are not shown in order – not that I think that really matters. However, when watching this film, I was wondering if I had missed an episode which explains the change in the Zero Woman universe. In this film, Rei actually seems like a normal cop, and is seen and known by the other members of the police force. They may not know exactly what she does, but they know about her, which seems at odds with the films I have seen, where she operates as somewhat of an outsider.

Furthermore, if you’ll pardon this minor spoiler, it turns out that her boss, the head of Section Zero is in cahoots with the bad guys. The part that irks me is not that he turned bad, that’s a good old tried and true story device for a film like this, but that he sends off a couple of goons to finish her off. As her boss, and the controller of Section Zero, he should be totally aware of what she is capable of doing. He should send an army after her. Maybe he has not only turned bad, but turned stupid also.

This sloppy story continuity within the series, coupled with the fact that it appears that no actress has played Zero Woman twice (I may be wrong there – it’s hard to find information on some of the later films which haven’t received an international release), means that these movies are stand alone features and not really a cohesive series. There is no real intention to build on or extend the mythos of the character. These films seem to exist solely as a bit of cheap titillation with an overdose of boob, bums and blood.

Realistically Zero Woman films are exploitation pictures of the cheapest and nastiest kind. Zero Woman: Final Mission is the type of film that you really need to take a shower after watching. Not a cold shower, but a hot one, with plenty of soap, because after watching this, you are going to feel quite ‘dirty’.

Images from Videowatchdog’s Hong Kong Digital

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