Written by: John White on January 24th, 2006
Original Release Date: Japan, 1995
Director: Toshiharu Ikeda
Cast: Hakuryu, Takanori Kikuchi, Dan Li, Kaori Shimamura, Takeshi Yamato
DVD released: July 12, 2005
Approximate running time: 86 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 4:3
Sound: Dolby Digital stereo
DVD Release: Asia Pulp Cinema
Region Coding: Region 3 NTSC
Retail Price: $9.98
Ran is a Chinese assassin called the Black Orchid. She kills a Yakuza boss whilst posing as a waitress and runs for cover into the empty bar of Yoichi, a former Yakuza. Rather surprisingly he covers for her and the two of them sleep together. She disappears into the night but the Yakuza keep looking and find her informant who admits under torture that she was asking about gang boss, Ho. Ho continues his routines waiting for Ran to strike and when a new hostess appears at his club he is suspicious that she is the assassin and provokes her into acting. In the midst of a gunfight, her friend Chu Li is shot and when Ran rescues her the Yakuza look to find either of them. Yoichi receives the call to return a favour and help capture the assassin not knowing that this is the woman who ran into his bar. Will Yoichi betray the Yakuza and why is Ran hunting them down.
Beautiful Beast is a gem. A fast paced, genre bending female hitman film with a superb couple of central performances. Kaori Shimamara is beautiful, cold and clinical as the hit woman on a mission. Ran is tough – she will piss herself in the middle of a bar to avoid being discovered, she will withstand torture in order to find out what has been done to a previous victim and she will blow her lover’s best friend away without a second’s thought in front of him. Yoichi is believable and rather interestingly the vulnerable one of the lovers – he lets her leave at the end rather than watch her die later.
Ran’s mission is one of revenge and the film works hard to show the pull of Japan to poor Chinese women, one character would shoot Ran after she saves her life as it will make her rich and able to return to her homeland. The object of Ran’s revenge is Ho, a thoroughly evil sadist who enjoys himself with sexual torture and meets a nasty end.
Beautiful music, great photography and unusual romance add to a well acted and developed story to produce a minor masterpiece. The best of the girls ‘n’ guns genre that I have seen.
Asia Pulp Cinema provide their usual presentation for the Beautiful V-cinema series. The transfer is so so and the sound is ordinary. No information seems to be missing from the screen. The sound is in both Japanese and English with the English subs being very reliable.
There is another strange quiz about the film as an extra on the disc along with trailers from other releases.
This is a really cool movie which avoids cliché and seems to be unavailable on DVD elsewhere. This is therefore the copy you will have to buy.