Friday, December 21, 2007


Tetsuro Takeuchi's WILD ZERO garnered a cult following almost immediately upon its release, and with its flamboyant style and insanely surreal plot it would've been impossible not to. Takeuchi honed his directorial skills helming music videos, and like his American counterparts, his foray into features is a definite exercise in style over substance.

The ADD-afflicted plot concerns (for the most part) Ace, a young rock-and-roller and his devotion to the (real-life) Japanese rock band Guitar Wolf. When he unexpectedly saved his band from a maniacal club owner (who favors odd wigs and and short-shorts no grown man should ever be caught dead in--really, they're the scariest thing about him), they vow to come to his aid, superhero-style, should he ever need it. Ace soon finds himself falling for Tobio, a mysterious girl he meets in a botched gas station robbery; but before true love can blossom, they must first deal with the multitudes of zombies threatening to take over their town.

Despite its frenetic pace, WILD ZERO suffers from a rambling, unfocused sense throughout most of its length, due in no small part to the constant flipping between multiple storylines (which remain unrelated for the film's first two acts). Even when its many subplots finally collide--to no additional effect, other than igniting a chaos-riddled climax--it still fails to be fully engaging. I probably would've enjoyed Ace and Tobio's love-among-the-zombies story, had Takeuchi not insisted on jumping away from it at every opportunity. The film frequently tries hard, a little too hard at times, to be quirky and strange, bombarding the viewer with oddity after oddity until it inevitably culminates in ridiculousness (such as when Guitar Wolf fells a UFO with his six-string). There's also a fair amount of humor to be found, most of which translates well to Western culture, though there is one brief gag where the characters learn that none of them have seen NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. Yeah, I know it's not to be taken seriously, but such a joke in a zombie film is damn near blasphemous.

I really wanted to like WILD ZERO, which seems as though its sole raison d'etre is to have a good time (the Synapse DVD even includes rules for a drinking game). A little more restraint in both plotting and camerawork (the latter comes off as gimmicky more often than not) and a focus on quality over quantity would've helped.

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