TADFF 2012: ‘Sushi Girl’ plays like Tarantino’s greatest hits

Sushi Girl

Directed by Kern Saxton

Written by Kern Saxton and Destin Pfaff

USA, 2012

Remember that iconic opening scene in Reservoir Dogs, when Steve Buscemi’s Mr. Pink has a scenery-chewing whinge about the audacity and impudence of tipping? Well, imagine if instead of coffee and breakfast on the table there was a fully naked woman with sushi placed all over her entire body, and you’ve essentially encapsulated what it’s like to watch Sushi Girl. Unconvinced? Well, here’s the plot synopsis:

The story follows a band of diamond thieves after a heist gone horribly wrong. One of the gang members, Fish (Noah Hathaway), was arrested and spent six years in prison. The ringleader, Duke (Tony Todd), suspects Fish of hiding the loot for himself and away from the group (which includes Andy Mackenzie, James Duval, and Mark Hamill himself).  While confined to a room, there are accusations of subterfuge, disloyalty (i.e. informants), piss-taking, and wanton violence; all while the story cuts back and forth between the events of the crime and the present. Still not convinced?

Even from the beginning, the movie screams of Quentin Tarantino, and not just Reservoir Dogs; there’s the obsessive love of Japanese culture and iconography (Kill Bill), the funky 70’s rock and roll score (Jackie Brown), the casual and flippant racism, the long sequences of ultra-dour dialogue punctuated by sudden and pulsating violence (just about all his films), bloody and torturous interrogation scenes where the person is tied up in a chair (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds), and Sonny Chiba; an actor that appears in one of Mr. Tarantino’s Japanese themed movies. Oh, and is there a Mexican standoff waiting to happen at the end of the film? Does one even have to ask?

The only real difference is the use of the actual sushi covered girl (Cortney Palm), which, to be fair, does add a nice twist to both the story and the ending. The acting is fairly strong, especially in regards to the performances of Mr. Todd and Mr. Hamill, and there’s a particularly amusing cameo, but the film never truly feels like something that should be taken on its own merits. It plays like Tarantino’s greatest hits and is consequently judged on that same level. Is it enjoyable? Yes, the same way that watching your favourite film for the fifteenth time is still enjoyable, but that’s all that Sushi Girl amounts to. You’re still not convinced? Well, just watch Tarantino’s oeuvre and you can see for yourself, and if you’ve seen Sushi Girl, chances are you’ve watched a movie by someone who already has.

- Justin Li

The 7th annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival runs from October 18-26. For a complete schedule and ticket information, please visit the offical website.

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By Justin Li

Born, raised, and educated in Toronto, Justin joined Sound on Sight in 2012 and has since been accepted into the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS).

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