Today I watched Yukio Noda’s Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs (1974)
Miki Sugimoto plays Rei, the titular zero woman, she is a loose cannon style cop who is thrown in prison for killing a U.S. diplomat who was a serial killer. While she is incarcerated the daughter of a prominent Japanese politician is kidnapped by a group of thugs. Originally they planned on selling her into prostitution but when they learn of who she really is they decide ransom is a more profitable venture. The politician father wants to keep this all under wraps so as not to jeopardize his career, so the police decide to eliminate the kidnappers. Rei is now brought back into service as a deniable asset, her mission is to kill all the thugs and rescue the hostage, but her father’s devotion to traditional values may complicate the matter.
This is one of the most brutal crime thrillers committed to celluloid. It is an unrelenting barrage of intense torture, brutal rape, and cold blooded murder. This is not a film for the feint of heart as visceral brutality opens the film and never lets up. Miki Sugimoto shows why she is one of the top names associated with this genre, while Reiko Ike may command attention with her passion, Sugimoto is frighteningly chilling as an unrepentant killer. All of this violence is not to say that the film is without thematic merit. It really is one of the most sternly presented condemnations of traditional Japanese values, especially how they relate to the oppression of women. The film uses it’s extreme content to confront the inhuman hypocrisy behind ideals of purity, particularly in a sexual context, especially towards the end of the film.
Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs is an incredibly impactful film. It uses extreme, bloody violence to highlight some very brutal, but very real behavior. But beyond that it is just a straight up stylish and intense thriller that moves with an exciting intensity. It is most certainly not a film for everyone because of just how effective the violence is and especially some of the more sadistic scenes of torture. If you can stomach the more extreme end of film, this is one not to be missed, it may be relentlessly violent, but it is also extremely entertaining. 5/5