The Film: Sushi Girl (2012)
The Principles: Written by Destin Pfaff and Kern Saxton. Directed by Kern Saxton. Acted by Tony Todd, Mark Hamill, Noah Hathaway, James Duval, Andy Mackenzie, Sonny Chiba, Jeff Fahey, Michael Biehn, Danny Trejo and Cortney Palm.
The Premise: Reservoir Dogs. Sushi Girl is Reservoir Dogs but with a naked girl covered in sushi in the middle of the argument. Five thieves who haven’t seen each other since the day of a botched (diamond!!) robbery six years earlier meet at an abandoned Japanese restaurant to figure out who ended up with the loot and divide it evenly. Tony Todd is the Yakuza-obsessed mastermind, Duke; Noah Hathaway (motherfucking Atreyu from The Neverending Story) is the freshly released from prison bagman, Fish; James Duval is the sketchy coke fiend, Francis; Andy Mackenzie is the just plain evil Mr. Orange of the group, Max and Mark Hamill does his Joker voice (if the Joker was a super bitchy pansexual) as the maniacal Crow.
Is It Good: Definitely not. It’s entertaining when it’s not derivative and fun when it’s not laborious, but really it’s just a one location heist movie that probably would have been much better as a short. I know the comparison to Reservoir Dogs is hypocritical since Reservoir Dogs is basically City on Fire, but if anything, Sushi Girl goes to prove how hard it is to do homage to a movie you’re a big fan of. Reservoir Dogs improved on City on Fire every step of the way, while Sushi Girl reminds you of all those mid to late ’90’s Pulp Fiction “homages” and almost makes you miss their wide eyed enthusiasm for overwritten dialogue and faux-tough guy posturing. All Sushi Girl made me want to do is watch shit like Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead, Go, Thursday, Love and a .45, Truth and Consequences NM, Suicide Kings and even fucking Boondock Saints again. Each of the movies listed is a better constructed, more “original” and scripted version of The House That Tarantino Built.
It’s not a complete wash, though. Tony Todd gives a legit performance, selling dialogue that not too many actors could get away with. Mark Hamill hams it up to the extreme as an effeminate psychopath and, while his character’s greasy haired look combined with his Gay Joker voice works, the performance isn’t very consistent. Also, Cortney Palm, the Sushi Girl, is pretty great when she finally gets to stand up and deliver some dialogue. Yes, she is naked the entire film and is incredibly stunning, but I never felt like she was being demeaned through the filmmaking process. Her character is given a ton of agency and since the film is named after her, you just know that she won’t be a sexy plate for the entire film.
Aside from the pretty bland script filled with horrible, tough guy dialogue, the biggest misstep in the film is the casting of Noah Hathaway. Look, I love The Neverending Story, I love the original Battlestar Galactica, but he is really terrible in this. He tries hard and goes for it physically, but he is simply miscast in a role similar to RDJ’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang character, Harry Lockhart. Hathaway doesn’t exude the neglected brilliance that RDJ brought to that role in spades. I love Hathaway, I do, but this film does him no favors. Plus, Michael Biehn, Jeff Fahey, Sonny Chiba and Danny Trejo show up for such a brief amount of time it feels like their inclusion was only to make the film’s IMDB profile look impressive.
Is It Worth A Look: If you miss the good old days of direct-to-DVD Pulp Fiction rip-offs then go for it. It’s not a terrible movie, as it’s well shot and contains a few wonderful moments for Cortney Palm, Tony Todd and Mark Hamill, but it adds up to nothing other than 90 minutes you could have spent getting to know your kids or staring at the mailman like you’re gonna eat him. It has an interesting structure and a neat idea with the Sushi Girl lying in the middle of the room the entire film, Jigsaw-style, but her eventual use is predictable and fairly trite.
Random Anecdotes: This film uses the songs Diamonds are Forever by Shirley Bassey and Walk On By by Issac Hayes in their entirety. Fair play on Diamonds are Forever, but Walk On By is forever tied to Dead Presidents and always will be, so all its usage does is make you think of a better movie.
This film was funded by Kickstarter, so if you hate it, blame America.
Michael Biehn shot his scene in one day for free as a favor to the producer.
Cinematic Soulmates: Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead, Go, Thursday, Love and a .45, Truth and Consequences NM, Suicide Kings, Kill Bill Vol. 1, Red Road.