Tokyo Shock presents
Black Angel (Kuro no Tenshi)—Vol. 1 (1997)
"No killing 'til I turn 20, that's in my parents' will."- Ikko (Riona Hazuki)
Stars: Riona Hazuki, Reiko Takashima, Jinpachi Nezu
Other Stars: Kippei Shiina, Miyuki Ono, Yoshiyuki Yamaguchi
Director: Takashi Ishii
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, sexual situations, violence, gore, language)
Run Time: 01h:46m:25s
Release Date: 2002-01-08
DVD ReviewWhen you're looking for extreme high body count, with tons of gore (not to mention a dollop of fetishistic sadism), it's always a good idea to look to Japanese cinema. Black Angel is a fairly good representative of the Yakuza-based, revenge-driven killing sprees that make up the genre. Certainly, the blood flows copiously. When Don Amaoka (Hideo Murota) is rubbed out by henchman Goro Nogi (Jinpachi Nezu), a hitwoman called the Black Angel, real name Mayo (Reiko Takashima) rescues the Don's six-year-old daughter Ikko and sends her to safety in Los Angeles. Fourteen years later, Ikko (Riona Hazuki), calling herself the Black Angel, returns to Japan for vengeance against Nogi, who has assumed control of the Don's empire by marrying Ikko's stepsister Chiaki (Miyuki Ono). But there's one thing in her way: the real Black Angel, who now works for Nogi. Although the story and the action are strictly by the book, it's hard not to like this picture. Even the predictable set pieces are carried off in a stylish manner. The picture is highly atmospheric, with water or echoes of water pervading nearly every scene. Even when water, or reflections of, it aren't onscreen, it can often be heard in the background. There may be an Oriental symbolism to the water that I'm missing, but it definitely provides a chilling and otherworldly setting for the action.The violence and gore quotients are extreme; this will be a definite hit at your High Body Count Night parties. The picture also exercises the Japanese penchant for brutality toward women in a sequence that seems practically endless; even my jaded stomach was having trouble sitting through this one. Needless to say, this probably shouldn't be on your list of date movies, at least if you want there to be a next one.The cast is decent enough for this sort of piece. Nezu isn't really quite menacing enough to make for a proper villain, but Ono as his wife makes up for it with a scheming and vicious portrayal that effectively plays both sides against each other. Takashima is a credible enough hitwoman, and Hazuki gives the appearance of being an amateur (as is appropriate) for much of the time. However, the martial arts conventions soon take over and she's kickboxing with the best of them. Of course, there's the usual hero-passes-through-a-rain-of-bullets-unscathed foolishness that one has come to expect in action movies. But a bigger disappointment is the finale; although it's built up quite effectively, the actual denouement is a bit disappointing; after all the torment that Ikko is put through, I really wanted to see her take a slow, bloody vengeance. Although denoted as volume 1, this film stands on its own and does not require "Black Angel 2" to make sense.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B-
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic widescreen picture has some serious problems. It has a videolike appearance, featuring interlacing artifacts even on a progressive display. In addition, the picture has a very digital quality to it, with plentiful artifacts. Particularly egregious is a sequence where Ikko and her boyfriend dance in front of a large black shell; their bodies are surrounded by clouds of tiny black pixels that definitely should not be there. Other sequences reveal fairly heavy pixelation as well. The problem isn't the video bit rate; that hovers at a very high 8 Mbps average. On the positive side, the color is excellent and the source print looks to be in fine condition.
Image Transfer Grade: C-
Audio Transfer Review: The Japanese audio is presented in Dolby Surround. This has a nice visceral impact and good frequency response. The music comes through undistorted and natural-sounding, as do the dialogue and foley effects. There is some minor hiss in dialogue sequences, but it's pretty trivial. The many gun battles have good presence and punch to them. The English track is 2.0 mono and is atrociously dubbed. Avoid it and stick to the subtitles.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu with music
Scene Access with 10 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Wild Criminal, Blood, Score and Reborn from Hell II
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
Layers Switch: 00h:59m:23s
Extras Review: Other than four trailers that seem to have nothing in common, there's nothing here. The trailers are presented in widescreen, but are nonanamorphic. The first three are about 2.35:1, which Reborn from Hell II looks to be about 2.0:1. The chaptering on the film is totally inadequate, and some of the stops are oddly placed mid-scene, as if they were set randomly.
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsA bloody and more or less effective Japanese shoot-em-up, unfortunately saddled with a poor video transfer. Worth a look if nonstop mayhem is what you're after.
Mark Zimmer 2002-03-07