Thursday, February 13, 2014

Wild Zero (Tetsuro Takeuchi, 1999)

Yeah, baby! Rock 'n' Roll!!!! (Um, excuse me. I think you meant to say, "Yeah, baby! Jet Rock 'n' Roll!!!") Whatever, man. You're annoying habit of contradicting me isn't going to get me down from the high that comes with watching Wild Zero, the only trans-positive Japanese zombie/alien invasion movie to be based on the real life adventures of the Jet Rock 'n' Roll band Guitar Wolf. You remember them, right? They had a small part in that totally awesome flick, The Sore Losers; their leader shot red lasers from his eyes. Anyway, do you recall how badass they were in that film? Yeah, well, they're even more badass in this one. And, no, not just because they kill zombies so nonchalantly. They have a message and that message is clear, and it's perfectly summed by their leader when he tells a young fan while they're in the throes of having a sexual identity crisis: "Love has no borders, nationalities, or genders. Do it!" Sure, they promote a lifestyle I don't even agree with, but they do so with such an unabashed glee, that I can't help but... (Lifestyle? I thought you were pro-LGBT?) Not that lifestyle, you big dummy. I'm talking about the rock 'n' roll lifestyle. (What kind of person doesn't like rock 'n' roll?) Are you serious? Have you ever sat down and actually listened to a guitar? It produces one of the most irritating sounds on the planet. But then again, I don't really see anyone lining up to see a trans-positive Japanese zombie/alien invasion movie based around the music of Johnny Hates Jazz or The Blow Monkeys. I'm sorry to shatter your dreams like that, but that's just not a scene anyone in their right mind digs.

It should be noted that Wild Zero doesn't promote the bland, middle of the road corporate rock that has been infecting our airwaves for the past twenty or so years, the music of Guitar Wolf has tons of spunk. What I mean is, it's not polished and neat; it's crunchy, it's grimy, and it's loud. Worshiping at the alter of Joey Ramone and Joan Jett, Guitar Wolf bring a bare-bones approach to rock 'n' roll, one that is severely lacking in today's twaddle-based musical landscape.

Do I think they would be a better band if they added some synthesizers to the sound? Of course I do. But you can't just go around adding instruments to every band you come across. (Why not?)

If it's okay with you, I'm moving on to the subject of legs and the iconic Burberry pattern, as there's no getting through to you. And by "you" I mean me. Seriously, only I could watch a trans-positive Japanese zombie/alien invasion movie and then complain that the band the film is centered around doesn't have a synth player, or, in this case, a "Synth Wolf (the members of Guitar Wolf are identified by the instrument they play - for example, the bass player is called "Bass Wolf").

Get used to the sight of Ace (Masashi Endô) combing his hair, 'cause he totally combs it a lot in this movie. Boy, that didn't really lead to anything insightful, now did it?. Anyway, Ace is the biggest Guitar Wolf fan there is. Dreaming of rock 'n' roll stardom himself, Ace heads backstage to show his stuff to "The Captain (Makoto Inamiya), the manager of the club. After he's finished properly motivating himself in the mensroom, and, not to mention, combing his hair, Ace goes to meet The Captain.

Overhearing someone diss rock 'n' roll in The Captain's office (something about it being tired and lame), Ace bursts in only to find The Captain and Guitar Wolf pointing guns at one another. Using Ace's abrupt entrance to his advantage, Guitar Wolf blows two of The Captain's fingers off and obliterates some random dude's head. Knocked to the ground by the force of the blood splatter from the obliterated head, Ace lies semi-conscious as his guitar hero stands over him. Cutting Ace's hand with a knife, Guitar Wolf then cuts his own hand and then presses the x-shaped wound against Ace's regular-shaped wound. (Did they just become blood brothers?) I'm not sure, but I do know that Guitar Wolf gives Ace a whistle, and tells him to use it whenever he's in trouble.

In a futile attempt to stay relevant, The Captain, who, it should be noted, is never seen without his super-tight booty shorts, fires about six or seven shotgun blasts (ala Alfred Molina in Boogie Nights) in Guitar Wolf's general direction as they drive off. Rock 'n' Roll!!!!

The leader of Guitar Wolf, by the way, drives a motorcycle, one that shoots flames from its tailpipe, and Drum Wolf and Bass Wolf ride together in a car. Though, I'm not sure if their car shoots flames out the tailpipe or not. However, since almost everything in this film shoots flames, I'm going to go ahead and assume that their car does in fact shoot flames.

Meanwhile, out on the road near Asahi, Tobio (Kwancharu Shitichai) is dumped out of a car they were traveling in. The reason they're dumped isn't quite clear, but the driver does call them, I think, a weirdo or a freak at one point. Interesting. Walking to an abandoned Esso station, Tobio goes inside to rest. Also out on the road near Asahi is the chatty/skinny Toshi (Yoshiyuki Morishita), the quiet/deranged Masao (Masao), and the tubby/alluring Hanako (Tanako), three "friends" riding in a van together (I put the word friends in quotes because they don't really seem to get along, especially Toshi and Hanako, who I think are supposed to be a couple).

Oh, and a Yakuza gangster named Kondo (Shirô Namiki) is out on the road near Asahi as well. The plan involves meeting Yamazaki (Haruka Nakajo), a female arms dealer who is waiting by the side of the road, to buy a shitload of guns.

Let me quickly look over what I just wrote. Yep, I think that pretty much covers everyone. I mean, other than the hordes of zombies that appear later on in the film, that's it as far as characters go. (Don't forget the female pop singer wannabe who auditions for The Captain in his office.) Yeah, but she doesn't really participate in the zombie apocalypse. Either way, I'm glad you mentioned her. Rock 'n' Roll!!!!

Remember that abandoned Esso station? Well, everyone except the Yakuza and the drably dressed female arms dealer wind up there. If you must know, the Yakuza currently have their hands full... (Please say "with zombies," please say, "with zombies.") ..with zombies (Yes!) The drably dressed female arms dealer, on the other hand, gets tired of waiting and hops in her high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle.

Reluctantly leaving Tobio at the gas station, Ace hits the road on his motorcycle (which definitely doesn't shoot flames), presumably to attend the next Guitar Wolf show. Noticing a van by the side of the road, Ace stops to take a look. To his horror, zombies are eating the occupants. Hopping back on his bike, Ace is about to take off, when suddenly, Guitar Wolf appears in the middle of the road, and tells him to go help Tobio, who's all alone at the gas station.

I think that's enough as far as plot-based details go, as everything that is set up during the first thirty minutes is about to pay off big time. Rock 'n' Roll!!!!

First things first, the drably dressed arms dealer is about to get a much needed makeover. While taking a shower in an abandoned house, zombies rip up her clothes. You know what that means? That's right, it's time to find something else to wear. And boy, does she ever find something else. Are you sitting down? She puts on, after dispatching the zombies that destroyed her drab duds, a Burberry print leotard with matching heels. (Wait, the heels were Burberry print as well?) That's a big 10-4 good buddy. (Dayum!)

And get this, her personality remains the same. In other words, she's still a gun-toting psycho-hosebeast. Except, now she's a gun-toting psycho-hosebeast in a Burberry print leotard with matching pumps.

After coming to terms with his lack of coolness, Ace learns the truth about Tobio. Let's just say it involves gender. It's true, he does lose it when the truth is revealed, but as Guitar Wolf wisely states: "Love has no borders, nationalities, or genders!" This plot line is the heart and soul of the film, as Ace must put aside his pesky prejudices and fight to save Tobio from an army alien-induced zombies.

The relationship between Ace and Tobio may be the "heart and soul" of the film, but the one between Toshi and Hanako is the most rewarding. Spending most of the film bickering with one another, Toshi and Hanako find solace with one another in a most unusual way. Call me crazy, but the part where Toshi and Hanako find each other after being apart was way more satisfying than the inevitable Ace and Tobio reunion. Don't tell anyone this, but I felt a slight swelling sensation in and around my eye area when Toshi and Hanako are reunited.

Since the film features Guitar Wolf and some of the same music, Wild Zero reminded me a lot of John Michael McCarthy's aforementioned The Sore Losers (I wouldn't hesitate to put them on a double-bill together). However, the film also has a lot in common with the zombie films of George A. Romero (the characters even discuss Night of the Living Dead at one point) and the deadpan comedy style of many Jim Jarmusch and Aki Kaurismäki films. But make no mistake, this film is pure, uncut insanity from start to finish. Excessive hair combing, exploding zombie heads, Bikini Kill!, laser eyes, short shorts, and flames everywhere, it's got it all. Oh, and I almost forgot, guitar picks are used as weapons. 'Nuff said. Rock 'n' Roll!!!!


  1. Ive always championed this movie, always show it to all my friends because it's just so freaking insane. I mean, cutting alien spaceships in half with your guitar sword, how cool is that??

  2. I want one of those "Call Guitar Wolf" whistles.