Toronto After Dark – Sushi Girl – Kern Saxton

I almost feel like I should apologize to everyone involved with Sushi Girl, because I am not sure that my writing is anywhere near good enough to describe how freaking amazing this film is!  Tim turned to me the moment the end credits hit the screen and proclaimed it his favourite of the festival, and I have to agree that it’s very near the top for me, as well.  The only thing holding me back from choosing a favourite is that I have a hard time distinguishing between things that I love equally, but in different ways.  Grabbers was the most fun ride I’ve been on in a long time, Crave was a brilliant character study that stayed with me long after I left the theatre, My Amityville Horror kept me rivited and engaged from start to finish…and Sushi Girl caused me to tweet about how it’s a twisted joy from beginning to end – on my way home from the theatre.

I said before the festival that Sushi Girl was one of the films I was most looking forward to, and that my enthusiasm going in was due in large part to the cast, because story-wise, it’s not my kind of movie in general.  I was absolutely floored by how brilliant this cast really is, however, and watching them all together on screen was nothing short of magic.  Demented, twisted, gleeful magic.  My heartfelt props to every single actor in this film, and to everyone who brought it to the screen.  The entire movie is so tight – not a moment is wasted, and even when it feels like there is no action, the nuanced performances from the cast serve to ratchet up the tension more and more as we move into the plot.  Watching Sushi Girl is like waiting for a bomb to go off – you know the explosion is coming ANY MOMENT NOW – but you’re not exactly sure when, and you feel like you need to hold your breath the whole time if you want to have a hope of being prepared for it.  Only you know nothing can prepare you for the explosion to come.  You just have to hang on and try to survive it.

It’s not unlike waiting for Duke’s timer to ping, actually.

The story of Sushi Girl starts off simply enough:  Six years ago, a diamond heist went awry and the bag man of the masked group, Fish (Noah Hathaway) got captured by the cops, with the bag, but without the diamonds.  He does his time, and the moment he’s released from prison, a driver is there to meet him and take him to the inevitable reunion with the rest of his criminal comrades.  The reunion dinner is staged by their calmly menacing leader, Duke (Tony Todd), who has purchased and set up a restaurant’s elaborate main room to suit his purposes.  He’s got a nameless Sushi Girl (Cortney Palm) in place on the dinner table, and by the time Fish arrives, the gang’s all there.  We have the trying-to-reform Francis (James Duval), the explosively angry Max (Andy Mackenzie), and an almost unrecognizeable Mark Hamill inhabiting his role of the flamboyant, twisted, Joker-esque Crow.  the purpose of the evening is, of course, to find out what happened to the diamonds, which were last seen in Fish’s possession before he was arrested not far from the scene of the crime.  The men will do anything to jog Fish’s memory of the event, while their Sushi Girl lays silent and unseeing as the table’s centrepiece (and I can’t say nearly enough about Cortney Palm’s incredible debut outing in this film – her subtle display of varied emotions turned into one of the bravest performances I’ve ever seen).

The film revisits the heist in pieces; flashbacks that tell short sections of the story at a time, and which add so many more details to the present part of the tale and heighten the viewer experience all the more.  The tie pin Duke’s wearing that he took from the man he killed during the heist, and the Falkore plumbing van the gang was driving when they stole the diamonds were particular details I loved (the latter being one over which I geeked out like a giddy schoolgirl), and getting to see Michael Biehn and Danny Trejo have some applause-worthy cameos was almost more awesome than I could bear!

This film has drama, it has comedy, it has bloodshed, it has brutal torture (that I am happy to say did NOT feel like it was catering to the torture porn genre that’s risen up of late in horror films), it has brilliant performances from the entire cast (though if I had to pick faves, in addition to Palm, I’d add Todd, Hathaway and Hamill in there as slightly above the bar), there are some twists you won’t quite see coming – and it has sushi.  So grab some chopsticks and run – don’t walk (hopefully it’s not like running with scissors, though) – to see Sushi Girl as soon as you possibly can.  It’s a magnificent film that you won’t soon forget, and ought to go down in history as setting the cinematic bar for crime thrillers just a little bit higher overall.  :)

Oh, and Tim wanted me to mention how awesome it was that the james Bond theme for Diamonds Are Forever was used at the beginning of the film – but to me, no one sang about diamonds like Marilyn.  Just sayin’.  ;)

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