Wild Zero

     There are other films. And then there's Wild Zero.

     Some of the films which were made before Wild Zero (which were all obviously inferior) used their entire length dealing with issues that end up being merely tiny pieces of the rich pageant that is Wild Zero. For instance, there were zombie films, such as Night of the Living Dead (which is, in one of this film's more obviously postmodern moments, explicitly referenced in Wild Zero). There were kung fu films, and there were rock and roll films. There were action films and films about people with ambiguous genders. There were science fiction films about flying saucers, and there were fantasy films about magic. There were buddy films and there were romantic films. There were gore films and there were gangster films.

     All of these films are, collectively, merely the John the Baptist to Wild Zero's Jesus Christ Superstar. They came before, to herald its coming.

     Okay, so maybe I'm using a little hyperbole. But Wild Zero is certainly an insane, goofy, rollicking, ass-kicking, Molotov cocktail of a film. It is a Japanese film starring a Japanese punk rock band called Guitar Wolf, as themselves. They are Guitar Wolf, Bass Wolf and Drum Wolf, and they rock. They rock hard. (For more, see here. And, if you can read Japanese, check this out.) They are cooler than living beings are normally allowed to be. Bass Wolf and Drum Wolf (who are basically interchangeable) will sit calmly in their black leather jackets among masses of zombies, drinking liquor (Guitar Wolf, as a band, is fueled mainly by large amounts of alcohol) and combing their hair. Guitar Wolf is the leader of the band, and he never puts down his guitar. He has guitar pick throwing stars which he can, and will, unleash upon hordes of zombies with deadly accuracy. His guitar doubles as a sword. He has some kind of magical power which occassionally manifests itself as blue lightning bolts. His microphone and motorcycle tend to spit fire. He speaks a little English--he can say "ROCK AND ROLL!!!", and he does, often, and very loudly. His philosophy is simple--love (and, by extension, rock and roll) has no boundaries, nationalities, or genders. Did I mention he has a guitar sword?!?!?!

     We are introduced to Guitar Wolf at the beginning of the film, right after we meet their biggest fan, a young man named Ace. Ace aspires to be cooler than Guitar Wolf, though he is sadly unfit for such an obviously impossible task. He's actually a bit of a loser; he uses his mama's red plastic comb in vain attempts to tame his unruly pompadour. After witnessing a Guitar Wolf show which seems to transport him to new realms of pleasure, his real adventure begins. He heads into the back of the club to demand a gig of his own there (regardless of the fact that he cannot even play guitar), and overhears an argument between the owner of the club and Guitar Wolf.

     And now I have to stop here and introduce the owner of the club: The Captain. The Captain is most likely a pimp and a drug dealer, and he is certainly a gangster of some kind. He's also a childhood friend (ahem) of Guitar Wolf. He's bald, though he often wears outrageous wigs. He is also constantly wearing what are, I sincerely hope, the shortest, tiniest and most obscene short pants that exist on Earth. They are even laced up the side so that the maximum amount of flesh is visible. He loves to laugh maniacally and for long periods of time.

     When Ace arrives, the Captain is explaining to Guitar Wolf that rock and roll is over. Ace is having none of this. He bursts into the room and announces that rock and roll will never die!

     What Ace doesn't know is that by this time the atmosphere in the room is tense; guns are drawn and aimed. He is knocked out almost before he gets to finish defending rock and roll. Then the shooting starts. When it's over, the Captain has lost a few fingers, and some guy in the hallway has lost his head (and that's only the first of many heads to explode in this movie). On his way out the door, Guitar Wolf (who is unscathed, of course) makes Ace his rock and roll blood brother, and gives him a whistle. If you're ever in trouble, Guitar Wolf says, blow on this, and I'll come help you.

     This is about 5 minutes into the movie. During and after this scene (the editing is intense and disorienting), we are introduced to multiple characters and plot lines. Just hold on and try to keep up; it will all make sense after a while. (Well, a certain amount of sense. At some point the Captain starts shooting green energy bolts out of his eyes. You can come up with an explanation for this, but you really have to think about it.)

     Eventually everybody and everything collides in the same town--a town that has recently had some meteorite activitiy (or was that a flying saucer?). Along the way, you'll meet a greedy, tough-as-nails arms dealer whose every movement ends in a supermodel pose--she's doing some business near the town. You'll meet the yakuza who are on the other end of that arms deal. You'll meet a bickering couple and their wound-way-too-tight friend who are on their way to see the meteorite. And you'll meet cute little Tobio, who's apparently just passing through. And eventually, the zombies show up, and wackiness ensues.

     I'd tell you more about the plot, and describe more of the many great scenes to you, but it'd be nowhere near as effective as seeing the movie yourself. So that is what I suggest you do, now, without delay. It won't be easy (I'm pretty sure the film has not been released on video or DVD in America yet), but you must do it. He has a GUITAR SWORD, for god's sake!

     Wild Zero may be the only film to feature a zombie love story. Wild Zero may be the only film to feature magical punk rock superheroes playing themselves. Wild Zero belongs to many genres, and to none. But whatever it is, it is great.

Jim Genzano




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