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The Frozen Ground, Robert Hansen, Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, Vanessa Hudgens, 50 Cent, Curtis Jackson, Jodi Lyn OKeefe, Dean Norris

The Frozen Ground: when an upstanding citizen is accused of kidnapping, torturing and raping a ‘lying’ prostitute the case is immediately dropped, but lands on the desk of a diligent detective. The first-time director coaxes solid performances from an impressive cast: Con Air’s Cage and Cusack are always welcome (and Cage looks like he actually wants to be here!), supported by the likes of Vanessa Hudgens, Dean Norris, Kurt Fuller, Brad Henke, and 50 Cent’s teeth. Unlike 99% of serial killer films, this is different because you know very quickly who the baddie is – it’s not a random character added in the last act – so we see the cop stalking the killer, while the he tries to evade detection, not unlike Insomnia (in setting / location too). In fact the only real mis-step is the clichéd ‘over-committed-detective-with-suffering-family’ trope, but it’s a minor part of the picture. As great as this is, it’s a tough one to recommend because it’s pretty grim viewing in parts, but I’d put this as being head and shoulders above your average movie in the burgeoning ‘true crime / serial killer’ genre.

Score: 8/10

JAPANORAMA - Seven Monkey BANNER JAPAN-O-RAMA.jpgSex and Fury 01 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena IchinoseSex and Fury (不良姐御伝 猪の鹿お蝶, Furyō anego den: Inoshika o-Chō): decades after her father is murdered, a pickpocket finally tracks down his killers. This one’s a mix of period revenge and softcore / (s)exploitation film – better known in Japan as the Pinky Violence genre. Unlike most exploitation films the visuals in this movie are often breathtaking: the entire film is framed perfectly, with creative camerawork, and sumptuous, colourful, pop-art combinations of sets, clothing and make up. I would love to see the damage that one of these visionary Japanese directors could do with today’s equipment and budgets. The set-pieces are equally astonishing; a butt-naked lady chopping her way through a gang of swordsmen in snow – it’s a true spectacle to behold, and never feels seedy. International star appeal comes from an infamous Western actress Christina Lindberg (Thriiller: A Cruel Picture), who delivers phonetic lines with little heart – definitely the weakest link in the picture. It may be unfair to compare as the lead actress Reiko Ike is sensational – she’s sexy, smart, dangerous, and you could get lost in those fiery eyes. There’s lesbians, slaves, gambling, drugs, sex, nudity, violence, fetish, swords, guns, nuns, blood… it’s a full house or B-movie buzz word bingo – and as for the ‘Sex and Fury’, the balance is tipped more towards the knockers than the knives. There’s only two real missteps in the film – the gay “ooohhh eeerrr” character (although he’s only in 2 scenes) and that the focus is split between 3 goodies and 3 baddies, which somewhat over-complicates what should be a straightforward revenge movie. In an era where the UK and US were churning out cheap and tacky Video Nasties with the odd notorious – censored – scene, Japan was putting out full-on high-quality exploitation films: containing 50% blood-fest, and 50% boundary-smashing sexualised nudity. Imagine you took a slasher film and gave leading parts to good actors, had a visionary director, and a major studio behind it! This is definitely part of the golden era of stylish, well directed, well acted, rock solid exploitation movies – 40 years old and still a highlight of the genre.

Score: 8.5/10

Below are a sample of screenshots / screencaps to give you an idea of the film’s style.

Sex and Fury 02 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena Ichinose Sex and Fury 03 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena Ichinose Sex and Fury 04 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena Ichinose Sex and Fury 05 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena Ichinose Sex and Fury 06 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena Ichinose Sex and Fury 07 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena Ichinose Sex and Fury 08 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena Ichinose Sex and Fury 09 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena Ichinose Sex and Fury 10 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena Ichinose Sex and Fury 11 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena Ichinose Sex and Fury 12 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena Ichinose Sex and Fury 13 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena Ichinose Sex and Fury 14 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena Ichinose Sex and Fury 15 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena Ichinose Sex and Fury 16 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena Ichinose Sex and Fury 17 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena Ichinose Sex and Fury 18 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena Ichinose Sex and Fury 19 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena IchinoseNOTE: In terms of visuals, set-pieces, story and tone Kill Bill borrows very heavily from this film (and more generally these keystone Japanese exploitation films), yet even today’s B-movie hero, Tarantino,  couldn’t make a film ½ this ballsy.