Movies without endings make me feel very
Jun Shirogane (Atsuko Sakuraba) is a Japanese secret service agent with American FBI training who just happens to be the world martial arts champion. For her latest assignment, to hunt down the criminals who murdered her family, Jun goes undercover as a professional female wrestler. She body slams her opponents during the day, and fights her way through the seediest of seedy criminal underworlds at night as Silver, crimefighter supreme.
Who thinks up this stuff? His name is Takashi Miike. A notorious and exhaustingly prolific filmmaker, known for directing about twelve films a year or so, Miike (Audition) loves to push boundaries in his work, loading them with all manner of lewd and disturbing material. Silver, one of Miike’s earlier movies, does indeed deliver on the twisted sex and violence his fans expect. What it doesn’t deliver is a coherent plot or any sense of fun.
This movie just doesn’t know what it wants to be. On the one hand, there’s a female superhero, complete with costume, who is wrestling and kung fu-ing her way through various villain henchmen. The other half of the movie is the risqué part, with softcore sex galore and several long scenes of a dominatrix torturing others in cruel and perverse ways. In the hands of a more skilled filmmaker, these two halves could have meshed nicely, for a wild and sexy ride. Instead, Miike, still at an early point in his career, doesn’t reach that level.
To be fair, the problem with the film isn’t so much Miike as it is the script, by Hisao Maki and Saburo Takemoto based on Maki’s manga. First off, would a secret service agent really be assigned to investigate the deaths of her own family? Wouldn’t that be, like, a conflict of interest or something? How does going undercover as a pro wrestler aid in this mission? How, exactly, does fighting and killing a dominatrix fit into the investigation? Was there a piece of exposition I missed there? The list just goes on and on. Pretty much nothing makes sense.
Although this was obviously a zero-budget production, made with cheap-looking video, Miike does show a few nice visual flourishes that his fans adore. The moody lighting is probably the best thing about the movie. There is indeed a talented visual stylist somewhere behind the scenes here, but the confusing story and the random weirdness on screen prevents those nice visuals from having their full impact. For example, the dominatrix scenes are bathed in an orange-red light, which, although warm colors, give off just the right sense of menace. Unfortunately, these scenes have a woman torturing and humiliating a full grown man in a diaper, the ridiculousness of which betrays the power of any visual flourishes.
Then there’s the ending. Based on my research, it appears that Silver was intended to be the first part of a series, except part two was never made. This leaves us with an ambiguous and unfulfilled cliffhanger. When the credits roll, viewers will ask themselves both “What will happen?” and “What just happened?” with equal frustration.
It occurs to me that a certain portion of the audience isn’t going to care about the story. These viewers are more interested in the base elements—the female nudity, the S&M, the martial arts fighting, and the gore. It’s too bad, then, that the movie adopts such a grim, serious tone, that these low-taste elements just don’t offer the kinky fun they should. The overall sense of sadness and gloom throughout Silver make it more of a downbeat, tedious affair that the titillating roller coaster ride Miike is no doubt shooting for.
As I noted above, the Silver was made on cheapie video and it shows. Given that, though, the picture on the DVD is serviceable, with few to no scratches or other errors. The 2.0 sound, in Japanese with English subtitles, is unimpressive. The only extras are trailers for other Miike films.
I realize all my talk about sex and violence in this movie might have some of you curious to see it. Don’t. If you’re looking for a fun, trashy B-movie, this isn’t it. Miike is capable of much better, and your DVD collection deserves better as well.