Friday, November 13, 2015

Lady Battle Cop [Onna batoru koppu] (1990)

I'll tell you right up front what you probably already know: Lady Battle Cop is a low budget Japanese takeoff on Paul Verhoeven's Robocop. It was direct-to-video in 1990, about three years after Robocop's theatrical release, and it's... well, it's a mixed bag, really. Which doesn't mean it isn't fun to watch


Now this goes way beyond what anyone might tell you at film school, this is more like Universal Law, and what it says is this:

Pretty much anything you watch (or read, or whatever, really) falls into one of four categories.
  • Enjoyably Good
  • Enjoyably Bad
  • Unenjoyably Good
  • Unenjoyably Bad

So if we're going with universal law, and Robocop is solidly ensconced in Enjoyably Good, this film wanders more around the fence-line of Enjoyably Bad. But that's not a put-down: it just means we're not looking at an example-of-cinematic-greatness, or even anything very close to that. And my guess is everyone involved in the film knew that at the time. It is a B-Movie after all.

So. the movie obviously had a modest budget, and its plot is not hole-free. There are even a few overcooked performances, and my guess is its director was going for that same over-the-top-crazy that Clarence Boddicker's gang was doing in Robocop, but it doesn't really work as well here. Anyway, in spite of all these things, I genuinely enjoyed the movie. Not freak-out-scream-from-the-rooftops-level enjoyment, but enjoyment nonetheless.

I guess I should admit part of that enjoyment is due to my particular weakness for movie robots and cyborgs in general. But going beyond that, this film has heart--and it grabbed hold of the place in mine I devote to the B side of things. So let's take a look and see what it's all about.

First off, I like the film's title card, so here that is:

Lean, clean, title-machine.

Nice, huh? I bet they spent more money on that title than they did on the rest of the movie's special effects combined. (Hah. Joking. Mostly joking.)

Anyway, after opening credits, we get a couple of scenes showing us how near-future Neo Tokyo has been overrun by a crime organization known as the Cartel, and the police are powerless to stop them. Hmm. Near future city, crime organization, powerless police force. Reminds me of something, but what exactly?

Okay. I guess we all know there's going to be a lot of Robocop riffing going on in this movie, right?

So next we meet main character Kaoru, as she busts her moves out on the tennis court (being a tennis pro and all). And while watching her, we get to listen to one of the movie's two theme songs. Now, the movie was never released in the U.S. as far as I'm aware, and the print I have is fansubbed. So I'm guessing (hoping, really) the peculiarity of the song's lyrics are due to their being translated by some earnest-but-not-professionally-trained soul:

When I lost what was precious to me
I felt I wanted to become stronger
My days of being treated gently were over
I cast off my past life
Even if a thousand eyes are aimed at me

No, no, no, no give up
I won't extinguish the fire of love and hatred
No, no, no, no give up
Women were made for tennis
Now, stand up!

Even if someone hurts me or robs me
That time is always a new beginning for me
The silver suit that I exchanged my dress for
I burn myself in order to fight
If I feel like crying
All I have to do is look up at the stars

No, no, no, no give up
As long as I have tomorrow
My dream will not be over
No, no, no, no give up
Women were made for tennis
Now, stand up!

Awkward lyrics aside, the tune is catchy. I've (most) recently been driving the missus nuts by spontaneously bursting out in the song's chorus: "No, no, no, noooooo giiiive up! Women were made for teeee-eeeeen-nis!" multiple times per day. She secretly loves it. Although she hides it. Really well.

Anyway, after her workout, Kaoru meets up with the movie's two other heroes where, unaccountably, all three break the fourth wall to mug for the camera. Which seemed weird to me at the time, but it also set me up with this nice screenshot to help introduce them, so I'm appreciative overall:

Kaoru twirls her gun into its holster gives the thumbs up sign.

We've got Kaoru, local tennis champion, in the middle. Naoya, with his lovin' arm around Kaoru, is her fiance. (He also happens to be a renowned cyberneticist, which I'm pretty sure will come in handy at a later point in the plot.) Finally, there's Saijo. He's a cop, and Naoya's best friend. He's also Kaoru's... brother? Close friend? Ex-love? Unrequited love? As far as I could tell, we never find out what their relationship actually is/was. Or maybe that particular point just doesn't make it across in the film's subtitles.

Regardless, we know he and Kaoru are close, and we know he's very protective of her, since he tells Naoya in the very next scene "You know I won't forgive you if you break her heart." Naoya responds to this by going on about how all three of them lost their parents to Cartel violence, but he's not going to let anything like that ever happen again. (Seems to me he either misheard or he's skirting the issue, 'cause that's not even what Saijo was talking about, right? But anyway.)

So. Life is good for our heroes, as evidenced by a couple of exposition-for-the-audience type scenes, telling us Kaoru has just taken second place in the Neo Tokyo Tennis Open, Naoya is almost finished with his secret cybernetics project (he just needs a... gulp... donor), and Saijo, well, he's just excited at the thought of bringing down the Cartel and being a do-gooder in general. But then everything goes to hell. (Natch.)

See, the Cartel has this hit-squad called Team Phantom.

These guys are ruthless. You'd need some kind of... Lady Battle Cop to take them down!

It seems the Cartel has gotten wind of Naoya's cyborg project, and they're sending Phantom in to shut it down. "Permanently!" (Say that with a New York Mafioso accent. It's fun.) Anyway, as luck would have it, Naoya and Kaoru both happen to be at the project when Phantom arrives, and tragic things ensue.

First, Kaoru gets raped (off-screen) by one of Team Phantom. I guess that's supposed to provide additional motivation for her crusade of vengeance later on, but I'm not a fan of rape scenes and I personally thought she had plenty to avenge without the movie going there. But it did.

Anyway, by the time Team Phantom leaves, Kaoru has been stabbed, shot, blown up and subjected to a psychic attack. (I know. We'll get there.) Naoya isn't in any better shape. And, just to make sure the project is finished for good, Team Phantom blows the whole building sky high on their way out the door.

Fast forward six months later, and Saijo is the lone wolf still trying to bring the Cartel down. He's still pretty upset over the deaths of his best friends, and ends up mouthing off to the wrong guy, which lands him on the Cartel's hit list. So far in the movie, this Cartel seems to be on the smallish side of GCOs (Global Criminal Organizations): we've seen a Big Boss, two bodyguards, the four members of Team Phantom, and Amadeus the Psychic Assassin.

This is Amadeus. When he does a psychic attack......his face does this. We don't know why.

Ah. Could this be one of the overcooked performances I mentioned earlier? Amadeus is... well, this is what Saijo's chief has to say about him:
"He's known as Amadeus. Paranormal. He's an esper. He can stop the target's heartbeat or destroy his brain from a distance with his psychokinesis. He's literally a lethal weapon. The military research center for NASA was studying him as the ultimate weapon, after nuclear missiles. And the cartel corrupted him."
Okay. So basically, he's this musclebound guy who never talks but growls a lot, never hits anyone but flexes a lot, and uses psychokinesis to throw things around. Oh, and his face gets all bubbly when he's fighting. Not sure what that's about. But he did show up at the project, along with Phantom six months prior, and is the reason Kaoru and Naoya got to add "psychic attack" to their list of injuries.

So. Saijo has been moved to the top of the Cartel's hit list and, unsurprisingly, it's not long before he walks down a dark alley and Team Phantom shows up to do away with him. He gets a knife to the shoulder and a bullet to the leg, but just before the death blow is delivered, guess who shows up?

That's right, it's Lady Battle Cop!

Do not mess with the metal!

LBC stalks menacingly (and slowly) toward Team Phantom, and they fire of a few rounds at her, then just kind of stand around as she makes her way forward. After getting suitably close, she stops and poses, so Team Phantom (and the audience) have a chance to take in her metallic-and-bicycle-reflector-splendor. And there is definitely some splendor going on, check this out:

Posing is finished, now it's time to kick some Phantom-ass. But, before said ass-kicking commences, LBC reminds us we're watching a Robocop clone by inexplicably giving Team Phantom the thumbs up sign. (This is LBC's version of the gunspinning that put Officer Lewis onto the idea of Robocop being her old partner Murphy, in that film.) As you may remember, Kaoru gave us that thumbs up when she broke fourth wall at the beginning of the movie. Saijo, hiding behind a nearby crate, remembers her doing that too, so he's now tipped-off that LBC is really Kaoru.

So LBC lays into Team Phantom, and takes one of 'em out for good. But before she has a chance to mop the floor with the rest of 'em, Amadeus shows up and hurls her into a derelict car with his psychic-hurling-hand-ray, then psychically throws a bunch of steel girders (lots of those laying around in this movie) at/on/in the car, trapping LBC inside it.

Psychic-hurling-hand-ray in action....

Things aren't looking too good for LBC, but she fires off a wrist rocket and buries Amadeus in a pile of rubble long enough to make her escape. She also leaves Saijo, bleeding all over the sidewalk, but he's a tough old dog and can take care of himself. We hope. Anyway, she heads back to home base which, we then find out via flashback, used to be Naoya's dentist office SECRET LAB.

Seriously, that's all dental equipment, right?

Apparently, six months earlier, Kaoru and Naoya--after being shot, stabbed, blown up and psychically pummeled--were just able to make it to his private lab before the main building blew up. They were both dying, and since Kaoru knew they were goners, she begged him to use her as his donor, so she could avenge them both. Which he obviously agreed to do.

So, at the hideout we get this big reveal, as LBC stands in some kind of misty-ultraviolet-shower-thing, and we see that she looks human. What? The silver armor, which we (having seen Robocop before we saw this movie) thought was her new cyborg body, is sitting in a pile off to one side. Now, this begs the question: What exactly is she? Is she still human, never died, and is just using high tech battle armor? Has her human brain been transplanted into an android body? Or is she completely robotic, with Kaoru's memories having been downloaded into some kind of positronic brain? We dunno.

There is one clue. In the shower, we see ...something... on the side of her rib cage. Some kind of interface, maybe? We don't know what it is, and it's never explained.

Vague cyborg-y thing.

But there's also another clue, from earlier in the movie. Just before Team Phantom showed up at the project and blew everyone to smithereens, there was a really quick scene showing scientists engaged in daily-cyborg-project-bustle, and we saw this android arm:

The only obvious robotics effect in the film.

So apparently the project had some kind of pass-for-human android stuff they were working on. Hmmm.... Based on that I'm gonna say LBC has Kaoru's brain and a few other organic bits, integrated with a full-on android body. And she uses the battle armor for additional protection. There. Mystery solved to my satisfaction. Back to the story.

So Team Phantom has gotten ahold of this "neutron radiation cannon" they plan to kill LBC with. They lure her to an abandoned warehouse, riddle her with armor piercing rounds to soften her up (another Robocop pilfer, or homage, depending on your point of view), and move in for the kill. But she escapes before they can finish her off. (Whew!)

Team Phantom tests out their new BKK--Battle Kop Killer.LBC wonders how Robocop got out of this mess in his movie.

From here on out, we follow along as Saijo and LBC try to bring down Team Phantom and the Cartel. This mostly involves him getting beat up and/or shot by the Cartel, and her rescuing him. Eventually she offs all the members of Team Phantom, and figures it's time to go after the Big Boss. Who actually does have more henchmen than were originally apparent. (A good fifteen or twenty more.) But LBC makes quick work of 'em. One tries to sneak up on her with another neutron cannon, but she hears him (just in time!) and shoots him dead.

Now it's time for the final throw down with Amadeus, the psychic assassin who doesn't know when to quit. Last time they met, she had stuck a HUGE wrench completely through his abdomen...

'Tis but a scratch! It's just a flesh wound!

...before blowing him up with a wrist grenade.

Psychic or not, this guy should be dead. But here he is again, not much worse for wear even with that thing sticking out of his belly. So the battle continues, with LBC mostly getting her butt kicked. When Saijo sees she's going down for the count and tries to help her, Amadeus tosses him into a wall and kills him.

Oh, man. Amadeus really shouldn't have done that. Now LBC's pissed. She empties her clip at him, but he deflects the bullets with his psychic power. Huh? He totally should have used that trick when she stuck him with the wrench. I guess it isn't slowing him down much anyway, so maybe he doesn't care.

So now Amadeus is throwing LBC around with his psychic-hurling-hands (no rays this time), but when he lets her get too close, she grabs that wrench and yanks it right out of him. Ouch! There's blood everywhere, but he's still coming at her. She eventually ends up on the ground, all battered, bruised, and desperately looking for something to use as a weapon. And what does she see? That neutron cannon the henchman was sneaking up with earlier! Quick as a whip she grabs it, levels it at Amadeus, and fires.

Apparently psychic assassins are not immune to neutron radiation cannons.

Where's your bubbly-faced-muscle-flexing now, asshole?!

And that's basically the end of the movie. LBC goes looking for the Big Boss and finds he's been executed by some Even Bigger Boss, apparently because he'd failed at stopping her. Just desserts, I suppose. And that's it. Nothing left to do but play the second theme song. Which was translated by the same fellow who did the opening song, I'm guessing.

There is someone who would throw away
Anything for love
I know someone who would shut out everything
After her dream is over

Believe in my life
I am me
I live in the present
I can keep living alone even after I was hurt
I was born as a woman but I can't live as one
Dawn will come soon
Or, at least, that's what I believe
If it is for the sake of love
Some people will throw everything away
When their dreams lay in ruins
I know some people who closed their eyes

Believe in my life
I am me
I can live on alone, even if I've been hurt
I was born a woman
But I can't be a woman
I live for the present
I believe that the dawn will come soon

Okay, this is probably a two brain movie, all told. But because of that heart I mentioned up top, I'm giving it...


Oh, and if you want to read up on LBCs cyborg powers and abilities specifically (as opposed to the story-centric post you just finished), you can check out this followup post that I was unable to stop myself from making....


Roque De Belial Luciferiano said...


I don't think this takes much of Robocop, but from the metal heroes daga from Toei that used to be very popular in the 80s and 90s. Jiban The future cop is really a metal hero who is a japanese copy from Robocop.

I liked the movie so far. Im very sensitive with retro cyborg movies and japanese movies too.

Dan said...

Hi Roque,

Thanks for your comment. Nice to meet a fellow Cyborg Enjoyer. :-)

And I agree, this movie has a very Metal Hero feel to it, too. In fact, since the first Metal Hero series aired several years before Robocop, I've wondered if the Robocop character might have been (at least partially) inspired by one or more of the Metal Heroes.

And I think overall Lady Battlecop (the character) feels closer to the various Metal Heroes than she does to the Robocop character. But her movie definitely borrowed from the Robocop film's look, feel and plot.

I'm talking about things like both movies being set in a corrupt near future city, being overrun with organized crime, the crime gang's over-the-top sadism and violent nature, as well as some of the scene-specific stuff like the satirical news commentators, and other things mentioned up top.

So I think it's fair to say the Metal Heroes as a whole may have inspired Robocop to some degree, with Robocop then going on to inspire some of the specifics of this film.


Tim Gueguen said...

Once again Masashi Ishibashi does what he does best. Which is getting done in by the good guys. I'm pretty sure the guy who plays the crooked police captain is Mikio Narita, who appeared with Ishibashi and Sonny Chiba in the heavily fictionalised bio film about Kyokushin Karate founder Mas Oyama, Karate Bullfighter. If it was this may have been his last job, as he died in 1990.

Dan said...

Hi Tim.

Thanks for the info/trivia. I attempted (while writing) to figure out who's who as far as acting credits go, but even the in-film credits don't go into much detail, and I'm not enough of a V-Cinema aficionado to figure everyone out under my own steam. Definitely that's Masashi Ishibashi on Team Phantom, but I found another source online that says it's Toshiaki Nishizawa who plays Soijo's captain. I've no idea myself. What do you think?