Tokyo Zombie Saichi Satô

Tokyo Zombie Saichi Satô
Working one's way through the thick layers of irony that permeate Saichi Satô's Tokyo Zombie is a daunting task. Adapted from a popular manga and filmed by some of the creative team from Takashi Miike's Ichi the Killer, Tokyo Zombie so gleefully revels in its quirkiness that it becomes downright alienating. On first glance, the plot sounds like a Shaun of the Dead retread: Tadanobu Asano (Genghis Khan in Mongol) and Show Aikawa play a pair of bumbling, aspiring ju-jitsu practitioners who find themselves in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. After Aikawa meets his zombie-inflicted doom, Asano becomes a champion ju-jitsu zombie fighter but remains obsessed with the memory of his departed friend. But despite how that plot synopsis may read, Tokyo Zombie is not a warm buddy film: much of the comedy is filmed in static, medium-long shots but overplayed by the performers, resulting in an awkward disconnect between the actors' aggressive clowning and the director's dry, emotionless style — imagine if Stanley Kubrick had directed a Three Stooges short. The Japanese setting, both pre- and post-apocalypse, is quiet, bleak, low-key and tinged with hopelessness. This deadpan atmosphere is meant to contrast comically with the zombie killings taking place amidst it. This disconnect between form and content is certainly odd and quirky but I never found myself laughing, perhaps because the film's weirdness feels too coldly calculated. Even something as simple as Asano and Aikawa's goofy haircuts feel like the director elbowing the audience in the ribs. The DVD box touts a quote from the Philadelphia Inquirer calling the film, "What Laurel and Hardy would make if they were still alive. And Japanese. And George Romero devotees." Maybe, but George Romero and Laurel and Hardy possessed elements of sincerity, humanity and spontaneity that are of little interest to Saichi Satô. DVD extras include a documentary, trailers and several cast and crew Q&A sessions. (Anchor Bay)