Retro Review: DEAD SUSHI (2012){0}

There’s broad comedy, there’s wacky stuff, and then there’s the Japanese version of non-stop silliness. Throw all three into a blender and you’ll get a bizarre (and kinda tasty) concoction known as Dead Sushi, a horror / action / ultra-goofy slapstick farce from the man who brought us RoboGeisha, Mutant Girls Squad, and Zombie Ass. Yes, those are all actual films, and yes they all sprang from the mind of the cinematically insane Noboru Iguchi. How much you enjoyDead Sushi will rely on your tolerance for overt silliness combined with martial arts nonsense and loads of over-the-top gore-geysers, but while Dead Sushi runs a bit longer than it really needs to, it’s tough to imagine being bored by the lunacy on display here.

The plot, which almost seems like a goof on Kung Fu Panda, is about a young girl who disgraces her father with her poor sushi-making skills, only to leave home and find work at at an inn. But when a group of very fancy executives visit for some sushi, all hell breaks loose because the fish has been infected with something that turns dead meat into monsters. It has something to do with a weird homeless guy and a zombie potion that gets mixed up in the sushi (like I said, it’s practically a live-action cartoon), but here’s the bottom line: the skimpy plot is simply a framework on which to hang a bunch of visual craziness. Leading lady Rina Takeda is suitably sweet and adorable, plus she’s not too shabby with the punching and the kicking, and she keeps Dead Sushi amusing even when the flick starts to become a little overbearing, broad, or plain old loud.

It all comes down to personal preference and/or cultural differences, but to my boring American eyes, Dead Sushi would be a lot more jaunty and energetic at 45 minutes long instead of 90. There’s certainly a colorful playfulness to the film’s numerous (and very strange) action / monster sequences, but there’s also a handful of respites that make you realize how damn goofy the movie is. It’s always funny when the background characters narrate what’s happening to them. “Argh, it has my butt and it hurts!” is kinda hilarious. But it’s tough to sustain a breathlessly bizarre pace for a full 90 minutes, and Dead Sushi occasionally suffers from going “over the top” to “strangely sedate.” The special effects, both practical and digital, are nothing if not slimy and creative, plus some of the supporting actors are clearly having a ball with such willfully stupid material. 

Having said all that, if splattery Japanese weirdness is what you’re into, there’s no denying that this flick delivers the goods, and then some.