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The cinematic Grindhouses of the bygone‘70s and ‘80s era included an epic variety of genres. Blacksploitation, Kung Fu, and the softcore pornography, hardcore violence of Italian Giallo thrillers, zombie epics and cannibal romps have all seen their day in the sun. Not to be outdone, the Japanese took advantage of the money to be found on filthy street corner around the world with their Yakuza, Samurai, and Pinky-Violence exploitation epics.



Rei (Miki Sugimoto) is a hard-boiled, shoot first, aim for the groin cop walking the mean streets of Tokyo. After brutally murdering a politically connected, particularly sadistic suspect she finds herself confined to a jail cell, left to rot with the scum she’d personally swept from the gutters. Meanwhile, a bloodthirsty gang of thugs kidnaps the daughter of a high-ranking public official. In this election season, the father asks that her rescue be kept underwraps and hush-hush from the public and media. There's only one woman the police can turn to to take care of at a time like this. The self-nominal 'Zero Woman' is tossed back onto the scummy streets, and told to rescue the girl from the inside, no questions asked.

Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs, which predates the late ‘90s Zero Woman films by about twenty years, is hardcore indeed, including at least three separate rape sequences, dozens of shotgun blasts, and enough flowing claret to satisfy the most fastidious of gore hounds. As is usual of exploitative film, the hero overcomes the most barbaric of circumstances in an effort to justify their ultra-violent quests. Rei is no exception, though unlike such genre champions as Chuck Bronson, or even Uma Thurman's Bride, she puts herself in the position to be attacked. Rather than being a victim, she is in control of her situation.

Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs
While infiltrating the ranks of the gang, she allows herself to be beaten and raped, most violently. Instead of simply killing the criminals, which we all know she could, she turns them against each other. In allowing them the time to turn against each other she also allows them to commit an ever-growing series of crimes. As the crimes become increasingly violent, one begins to wonder where Rei's loyalties really lie. Her furious motives would seem insane in any other film, but in this grotesquely violent world they seem somehow justified. Simply put, she is a nut.

I am not as familiar with the Japanese Grindhouse as I’d like to be. My education mostly consists of Sonni Chiba’s Street Fighter films, Lady Snowblood, and this film. I can say that even in my limited capacity to understand the specific genre, that no one did vengeance like the Japanese (though I suppose the Koreans seem to have that base covered these days). Even the most brutal rape/revenge films, no matter how sickening the actual rape sequences may be, seem tame when compared to the sheer volume of the bloody bullet hits and unrequested castrations seen in movies like this. I Spit On Your Grave and its ilk are definitely more disturbing, but lack the thrill of revenge found here. The Zero Woman is not a clay pigeon forced into circumstances beyond her control, she is the puppet master, and that is what makes her film special.

I honestly enjoyed Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs, in all its politically incorrect glory. It taughtly crams every one of its 88 minutes with mayhem, style, and colour. No matter how much love I may have for Tarantino’s Kill Bill films, I must admit that Quentin did not fully achieve the visual energy and wacky camera work of the films he was emulating. There is a real beauty to the skewed angles and saturated colours, creating what I’d have to refer to, for lack of a better word, as downright cool.

Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs


In what I’m going to pretend is a clever ploy to bring the joy of the Japanese Grindhouse into your home, new distributor Discotek Media hasn’t gone overboard in the digital cleaning process. Detail levels are plenty high, colours bright and saturated without too much blooming, and the anamorphic enhancement is most welcome. There is quite a bit of grain, dirt, grime, scratching, and I’m sure some of the original editors' blood messing up the frame, but it never seems out of place and honestly adds to the overall feel of the film. Take a shower after viewing.


Presented in its original Japanese, in what is referred to as a Dolby Digital stereo track, Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs sounds OK. Just OK. I know that downtown Tokyo armpit theaters were probably not equipped with state of the art surround sound systems, but I do have to complain a tiny bit about the lack of bass. I’m being picky here, but the track just felt a little light and tinny.

Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs
As a side note, I’d also like to make it known that I actually, in this rare case, would’ve enjoyed a really bad English dub track. I guess I’d rather pretend I was in Brooklyn than Tokyo, and admit it’s a silly request.


While not exactly over-loaded with features, this release of Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs does have a kind of informative text essay and a pair of trailers, one of which is for a live action Lupin the 3rd film. OK, I guess in today's world of extra-special editions the disc really doesn’t have any features, and I am interested enough in the world of Japanese exploitation that I’d love a documentary, but com’on, a live action Lupin the 3rd? I didn’t even know such a thing existed! I watched it at least three times. Can’t wait to actually see the film some day.

Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs


Needless to say, this is not the film for everyone. I actually find it hard to recommend as there are a select few exploitation fans that are going to enjoy it at all. I, however, cannot wait for more sultry, slimy, slash-and-burn Pinky Violence films on DVD. Fun for those thrilled by the very existence of hardcore cinema, and those brave enough to look for something different. If you're at all interested in where Tarantino has drawn inspiration, this is a good place to start. Next time, Discotek should consider adding a few roaches and a rat to the box, in the interest of making the special features complete.

To learn more about this release and others from Discotek Media, just click HERE