“This movie is definitely a case where more is less–the more plot points they cram into the movie, the more you get overwhelmed.”

 

 

 
by Martin Hafer

A great example of lots of great ideas…too many in fact.

009-1 is a horrifically violent but very stylish film. Blood and gore is rampant and can be very off-putting. So, if you don’t like all the violence, then it’s certainly NOT a film for you. I am just warning you about this up front, as the film is a 9.5 on a scale of 1 to 10 for violence! Because of this, and a bit of nudity and sexuality, it’s probably NOT a good film to watch with your kids, your mother or Father O’Reilly!

The film is based on an older manga series from Japan. Back from 1967-1970 the series ran in serial form and it made a brief re-appearance in 1974. Then, much more recently, an anime version was made. How close they are to this live-action film, I have no idea.

009-1: The End of the Beginning
Directed by
Koichi Sakamoto
Cast
Mami Abe, Ryôhei Abe, Sanae Hitomi
Release Date
Out Now
Martin’s Grade: C+

We begin with a prologue telling the audience that the film is set in some dystopic future–where evil and greed are rampant and the poor are treated pretty much like animals. The opening scene in the night club sets the stage for the violence you’ll see, as a complete scum of a guy kills for no reason. And, after brutally murdering someone, he turns his lustful eyes to a gorgeous woman–a woman who just happens to be 009-1. However, it turns out that 009-1 is a secret agent–a cybernetic one! She has little in the way of past memories and is full of amazing gadgets, as she was created to serve her ‘side’ in some seemingly meaningless battle between rival countries. In addition to being able to regenerate, dodge bullets, seduce men and kill with ease, this robotic lady also has boobs which are, well, booby-trapped! You’ll just have to see the film to understand what I mean. But of course, she kills this scum-bag–as well as most everyone in his entourage.


Such goings on are pretty much the ENTIRE film–with 009-1 going from one boss battle after another and killing. However, during the course of 009-1’s violent missions, she starts to remember more and more bits of who she might have been before she was made into some sort of killing machine reminding me of the excellent sci-fi book by Joe Haldeman, All My Sins Remembered). Additionally, she begins to show some independence–such as choosing in some cases NOT to kill as she seems to be developing some compassion. I really liked this aspect of the film–a blurring between the line of what it is to be a machine and what it is to be emotionally human (sort of like a rated-R version of Wall-E!).

Unfortunately, as the film progresses, I got a very strong feeling that there were two big problems. First, while the ideas in 009-1 are really neat, there are simply too many pieces of plot all shoved into the film fighting for space. This movie is definitely a case where more is less–the more plot points they cram into the movie, the more you get overwhelmed. It feels as if they put too much of the old series into one film instead of letting it unfold like a serial. A mini-series or follow-up films would have probably worked better. It just overwhelms you with all the plot twists and exposition. Overwhelming is also what I felt about the violence. I will admit that I am not a huge fan of violence unless it is handled well (such as in the wonderful Gina Carano films). Here, you get one killing after another after another and after a while I just found it a bit boring. Had the film progressed slower and focused much more on a central plot, the more it would have entertained. As it is, it is a very unique film but one I cannot wholeheartedly recommend unless you want mindless violence–much like if you are playing a video game. An interesting idea but one that leaves you feeling a bit overwhelmed.

I’d love to hear from you anime and manga fans about this one. Is the original story THIS complicated and violent? Did it leave you feeling exhausted and a bit overwhelmed? And, are the anime, manga and film similar or did the filmmakers take some serious diversions from the old story?