DINING YAKUZA STYLE
by Ariel Esteban Cayer
There is a Japanese form of food play called nyotaimori (“female body presentation”, colloquially “body sushi”), which consists of serving sushi on the still, naked body of a woman. Originally a rather obscure practice reserved to closed, intersecting circles of foodies and fetishists, body sushi was brought to mainstream attention for a variety of wide-ranging reasons, including per example its absurdly appealing exoticism for some, its probable breaking of sanitation laws for others, its problematic objectification of the female body for many or, conversely, its potential as an art form and celebration of the female form through gastronomy. And while Kern Saxton’s first feature film assembles this particular type of dish on its titular “sushi girl” (Cortney Palm), it’s for an entirely different type of buffet it shall grabt your attention: a display of elevated performances from the familiar faces and beloved talent of fan-favorites Tony Todd (Candyman), Noah Hathaway (The NeverEnding Story), James Duval (The Doom Generation), Mark Hamill (need I remind you?), Michael Biehn (Aliens, The Terminator, also in this Fantasia’s The Victim), Sonny Chiba (The Streetfighter), Jeff Fahey (Grindhouse) and Danny Trejo (Machete).
“Tonight we dine yakuza-style!” suggests Tony Todd’s Duke to an impressive entourage. Surrounding him are half-a-dozen of genre cinema’s most recognizable faces – not character actors per se – but actors having all embodied incredible characters at one point or the other. The massively imposing Duke (whose thunderous voice and presence is a complete delight) hosts this banquet of thieves and crooks, assembled for what initially seems to be a celebratory occasion. One of them, Fish (Noah Hathaway, all grown up) has just been released after serving 6 years of prison. 6 years he’s spent protecting his 4 partners-in-crime by keeping silent on the subject of a robbery gone awry. Now that he’s out, Duke, Francis, Max, Crow and Fish have things to discuss: namely the location of the share of diamonds they’ve been waiting on for 6 years. And of course, things go terribly bad, in spite of – or because of? – Duke’s watchful eye.
Standing out of the lot for a wonderfully sleazy performance, Mark Hamill returns quite flamboyantly to the big screen (following another starring role in a 2012 airplane horror film called Airborne), embodying the sadistic and excessive criminal Crow with passion and mesmerizing manners somewhere between Heath Ledger’s Joker performance (fittingly, Hamill has been the voice of The Joker in a multitude of Batman media since 1993, ranging from videogames DC Universe Online, Batman: Arkham City and Batman: Vengeance as well as television series Batman, Robot Chicken, Justice League, Birds of Prey, and more) and Philip Seymour Hoffman at his most sleazy and uncomfortable.
If Todd and Hamill give both commandeering performances, Hathaway, Fahey, Trejo Biehn, Chiba (albeit briefly) and Palm (whose place at the table should be kept in the back of your mind!) should not be ignored, rounding up a wonderful cast kept in chaotic check by Saxton’s concise script and direction: a director clearly making the best of the tremendous array of talents, flavors, colors and nuances on his plate, for our eyes and ears to delight in…much like, if you allow me to embarrassingly stretch this food metaphor, the sushi being served here.
SUSHI GIRL will have its International Premiere Saturday July 21st at 19:00, with Mark Hamill, James Duval, Noah Hathaway and Tony Todd in attendance!