Film reviews

Film review – Sailor Suit and Machine Gun: Graduation a pale imitation of 1981 classic

Japanese story of schoolgirl yakuza crime boss lacks the wit and subversive attitude of original film and is essentially a teen romance with occasional shouting

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 June, 2016, 5:01pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 June, 2016, 12:53pm

1.5/5 stars

Thirty-five years after teen idol Hiroko Yakushimaru upended the yakuza genre by spraying a room full of bullets with a shrill cry of “Kaikan!”, schoolgirl mob boss Izumi makes her long-overdue return to the big screen. But Sailor Suit and Machine Gun: Graduation is a pale, sanitised imitation of its predecessor, with none of its wit or subversive attitude.

Diminutive high schooler Izumi (Kanna Hashimoto) inherited the Medaka yakuza family after her doting uncle was gunned down in front of her. The ensuing turf war all but wiped out her gang, but now an uneasy ceasefire with the superior Hamaguchi family is being tested by the nefarious plans of a powerful conglomerate.

While the 1981 original was an irreverent spin on the gritty, violent crime films of the period, Koji Maeda’s belated reboot is essentially a teen romance with occasional shouting.

Masanobu Ando struts around as the Horiuchi Group’s playboy chairman, scheming to redevelop the entire town. But Izumi is no more interested in him than she is in uncovering who’s peddling heroin-laced cookies to her classmates. A gung-ho gangster no longer, she is portrayed here as an inept and lovesick teenager, fawning over Tsukinaga (Hiroki Hasegawa), a disillusioned former rival.

The film’s biggest problems are with tone and pacing, however, as it meanders through 118 minutes of lightweight shenanigans before reaching its disappointingly predictable conclusion. What could have been a gleefully trigger-happy revival of a forgotten cult classic instead misfires completely, diluting its source material beyond recognition.

Sailor Suit and Machine Gun: Graduation opens on June 30

Want more articles like this? Follow SCMP Film on Facebook