Japanese yakuza sexploitation; supposed to be a major influence on Tarantino’s Kill Bill. It was kind of disappointing; the swordfights are not especially well-choreographed, and Christina Lundbergh is pretty much a dud as a lovelorn American spy speaking painfully stilted English. The plot is more complicated than it needs to be, the revolutionary good guy is incredibly lame with a lameness matched only by the police who keep letting him escape after his botched assassination attempts (that’s pretty funny, actually). As you’d expect, there are a bunch of largely unmotivated sex scenes and a heaping helping of gratuitous violence, but none of it goes anywhere in particular, and the perversion and viciousness is all pretty rote (women on women whipping in front of a picture of Jesus while organ-music plays and a bunch of nuns look on…eh, okay.)
Still, it earns its reputation to some extent on the strength of the performance of the star, Reiko Ike as Ocho. The scene where she leaps out of the bathtub nude and cuts a swath of death through a passel of treacherous gamblers is probably the movie’s high point…though the climactic scene, where, again mostly nude, she again chops away at a phalanx of baddies, is also great. She never actually looks like she’s a master swordsman, necessarily, but she’s very charismatic and intense; she’s got the fluid stalking thing down, not to mention the deadly glare. There’s a sequel which I’m going to watch shortly, so obviously there was some appeal.