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Sushi Girl

2012 | 98 min | 2.39:1

Sushi Girl


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Theatrical release date

 04 January, 2012

Country of origin

 United States



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Screenshots from Sushi Girl Blu-ray

Sushi Girl Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, January 3, 2013

The Tarantino Generation is briefly revived with the release of “Sushi Girl,” a toe-curlingly violent journey into the black hearts of petty criminals and their loquacious impulses. Loaded with barbed interplay and fueled by a mystery of true intention, the movie sustains a certain anxious rhythm that’s superbly entertaining, eased along by exaggerated but excited performances from a group of actors who normally get the shaft when it comes to extended screentime. While it’s nothing inventive, perhaps a tad too derivative at times, “Sushi Girl” manages to overcome its limitations with a polished, low-budget style and a fiery attitude, keeping attention on the argument at hand, while increasing brutality and a satisfactory ending ease the awareness that the screenplay, credited to Destin Pfaff and Kern Saxton (who also directs), is simply walking in the considerable footsteps of other filmmakers.

In a filthy corner of Los Angeles, alpha crook Duke (Tony Todd) has purchased a dilapidated restaurant, building an Asian-influenced sanctuary to stage the most important meeting of his career. Welcoming effeminate ghoul Crow (Mark Hamill), dim-witted brute Max (Andy Mackenzie), and twitchy junkie Francis (James Duval) into the building, Duke gifts his former partners in crime a special meal of sushi, served on the body of a terrified woman (Cortney Palm) who’s part of his harem. The guest of honor is recent parolee Fish (Noah Hathaway), a newcomer to the gang who ditched a case of diamonds six years ago, claiming ignorance on their whereabouts, forcing his compatriots to stew in suspicion and anger. The peaceful meal is shattered quickly when Duke commences a ritual of torture to make Fish fess up, with Crow and Max eagerly taking turns bashing the former bagman, while Francis attempts to appeal to what remains of Duke’s forgiving nature. As the evening wears on, Fish is reduced to a bloody pulp, while a question of the lost diamonds remains, frustrating all involved.

Co-writer Pfaff is perhaps best known to the world as one of the performers on “The Millionaire Matchmaker,” a reality series anchored by high-maintenance relationship guru Patti Stanger, so the man knows a thing or two about toxic personalities and pressurized situations of pure fiction. However, his vision is limited to a modest retread of “Reservoir Dogs” (itself a film of numerous influences), backing “Sushi Girl” into a single restaurant location to mingle with grubby types in the mood to exact a little revenge on the one they believe is holding out on them. The bulk of the picture is devoted to goading and the delivery of pain, but flashbacks are peppered on to open up a cinematic window, with the mystery of the diamond heist gradually revealed throughout the effort, offering brief cameos from Danny Trejo, Michael Biehn, and Jeff Fahey as the men protecting the sparkling loot from outside interests. Their B-movie star power has a surprisingly exciting effect on the feature.

Dealing with a stagnant situation of taunts and accusations featuring goons seated around a naked woman covered in raw fish, Saxton develops a steady pace of revelations, inspecting disparate personalities as they come to a conclusion about Fish’s profession of innocence. It’s a good-looking movie, offering dark interiors and distinct costume design, but the screenplay takes center stage, providing the criminals with a buffet of monologues, including one where Duke explores the history of an egg timer he uses to provide Fish with minutes to confess between beatings, also offering up his fascination with Asian culture. The dialogue is acceptable, if a little too forced when trying to beef up the picture to a feature-length run time, yet Pfaff and Saxton appear to enjoy the opportunity to generate a tone of menace laced with dark comedy, dreaming up numerous complications along the way, most with a severely violent tilt that turns Fish’s face into hamburger.

The performances are truly what keeps “Sushi Girl” motivated, offering Todd’s best work in ages as the ringleader of the torture dinner, growling with purpose as Duke hopes to find a resolution to the interrogation without getting his hands wet with blood. Mackenzie is credibly hulkish as the idiot enforcer, while Duval is Duval in a role that asks for a little more finesse in the drama department. Stealing the show is Hamill, making a rare appearance on-screen as Crow, a feisty wimp with a fondness for human suffering. Making an effort to embody his character in full, Hamill chews on his lines and squeezes every reaction shot tightly, flavoring the picture with welcome broadness. Also of interest is Hathaway, the former child star of such hits as “The NeverEnding Story” and “Battlestar Galatica,” who returns to the business after an 18-year absence. His work is consistent, delivering believable yowls of pain and a few instances of ache, as Fish is initially refused comfort by his estranged family. Saxton can’t resist toying with this special return, labeling the van carrying the crooks to the diamond heist as “Falkor Plumbing.”

“Sushi Girl” eventually erodes into paranoia and gunplay, with a twist ending to keep viewers off-guard as the baddies dig into one another. Thankfully, turns of plot work, offering the feature a conclusion that’s worth the wait, capping the experience with a modest amount of surprise. However, the real shock of “Sushi Girl” is how it manages to hold interest despite its familiar moves, working to build a grim personality of its own. Saxton and Pfaff have managed to pull off an entertaining picture, even if they needed a few creative crutches to make it to the finish line.

Starring: Tony Todd (I), James Duval, Noah Hathaway, Mark Hamill
Director: Kern Saxton

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