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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

DVD Review: HARD REVENGE MILLY / HARD REVENGE MILLY: BLOODY BATTLE [Double Feature]

------Review by contributing writer Scott Baker------

Courtesy of Well Go USA, Inc.
Released: 2008 / 2009

Let me summarize my review of this double feature with a single sentence: these are two of the best Japanese action films I’ve seen in a long time.

I know that’s a bold statement to make, but I mean it whole-heartedly. Both films are amazing in every aspect. They grab you violently by the throat from the very beginning and don’t let go for well over an hour. I loved every minute of them.

Here is an overall plot summary of both films, from the back of the DVD:

HARD REVENGE MILLY
In post-apocalyptic Japan, Yokohama City has become an epicenter of violence ruled by a vicious gang. The worst of the new breed of criminals are “The Jack Brothers”. When The Jack Brothers viciously murder Milly’s husband and daughter, leaving her to die, she vows revenge. She learns the art of sword combat from a master swordsman named Jubei and eventually sets off to confront The Jack Brothers and fulfill her destiny.

HARD REVENGE MILLY: BLOODY BATTLE
After Milly eliminates The Jack Brothers to avenge her family, a beautiful girl named Haru approaches her for help avenging her own boyfriend. Milly initially brushes her off, but eventually recognizes her passion for vengeance and agrees to train her. Soon, an intense admirer of Jack’s named Ikki and his brother Hyuma arrive to take them on. Milly makes short work of their minions and neutralizes Hyuma, but the cyborg-armed Ikki manages to injure her severely. Will she be able to survive and help Haru exact revenge?

Although the plot has enough material to create an 8-hour mini-series, the films are surprisingly short. The first film clocks in at around 40 minutes, while the second runs a little longer, around an hour and 15 minutes or so. But while their combined length is about that of a standard Hollywood movie, the short lengths of time for each film are perfect. There’s no long, drawn out scenes that shouldn’t be there, but there’s nothing omitted from the storyline, either.

Visually, the films are shot very well. I love the cinematography in both films, especially in the fight scenes. While some of them are room-encompassing far away shots, many of the camera angles are turbulent, shaky shots that put your right in the middle of the action. And for those scenes with no fighting, the stark imagery that is used gives a surreal aspect to almost every shot, giving each an almost Kubrick-like feel.

And speaking of the fight scenes, there’s enough blood and gore in each battle to placate even the most die-hard of horror fans. Even the simplest of flesh-wounds bring forth a crimson fountain. Before long, the floor is so coated in blood and gore that some of the characters have a hard time keeping their footing! It’s truly awesome to watch.

Both films boast excellent casts as well, with actress Miki Mizuno portraying the titular character in each. Mizuno is superb as Milly, giving depth and emotion to a character that would stereotypically be viewed as cold and lifeless. I believe these movies could have floundered in obscurity as low-budget failures if the wrong woman had been cast as Milly. Thankfully, the casting team struck gold with Mizuno.

If I were forced to find a flaw with either movie, I don’t think I could. These films know exactly what they are and they don’t try to be anything but entertaining. And entertaining they certainly are! If you like martial-arts action and can stomach some serious bloodletting, then definitely give these two a go.

CLICK HERE to watch the trailer for HARD REVENGE MILLY
CLICK HERE to watch the trailer for HARD REVENGE MILLY: BLOODY BATTLE
CLICK HERE to purchase the DVD double feature

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