“Tokyo Zombie” – Chris Luedtke

Perhaps a foreboding silence would best summarize my take on Tokyo Zombie. This film could have been (and should have been) Japan’s zombie masterwork. Yet the film has a special treadmill quality to it that keeps us from going anywhere interesting; it’s as though the background changes little as the film fearlessly and aimlessly succeeds in leading us into one of the genre’s biggest snoozefests.

Fujio (Tadanobu Asano) and Mitsuo (Shô Aikawa) are two slackers that work for a fire hydrant company. However, their dreams rest in becoming jujitsu masters. Following this dream they decide that the best way to train is on the job, where one of their bosses finds out and threatens to terminate them. Fujio bashes him over the head, killing him instantly. The two decide to cover their tracks and bury him at the mysterious Black Mount Fuji, a place of many unmarked graves and no questions asked. However, strange things are afoot at Black Mount Fuji…namely the dead rising from its grounds. Soon, Fujio and Mitsuo find themselves in a zombie pandemic, with nothing to survive on but their unpolished jujitsu skills.

Don’t compare this film to Shaun of the Dead. There is no comparison. In the world of zombie film parodies, Tokyo Zombie comes several meters short of the finish line. Oftentimes and even towards the middle, I had no idea what this film wanted to be. About zombies? Well, yes, it has those. But it also has a bumbling morons fixation that takes up the first half hour. I expected that to at least have its moments, but they were so scattered that I ended up just shrugging and willing time to move faster. The dialogue also left a lot to be desired. It all depends on whether or not you can take sympathize with one guy who’s overly bossy and one who’s just not all there. Most of the bickering between these guys just isn’t funny. Points become overstated, and the touching scenes are just too lame to become involved with.

I will admit there were enough unexpected moments in Tokyo Zombie that will raise at least an eyebrow or two. We go from schmoes at a dead-end job to zombies on the loose, and from there, it’s anyone’s guess. Perhaps an homage to Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome? Depends on how you look at it. It’s not like Shaun of the Dead, where the entire film parodies every great zombie flick. Tokyo Zombie works on playing the pandemic by its own rules, which is admirable, but again, it never moves forward enough. Everyone’s stuck in neutral, as the background receives random makeovers.

Tokyo Zombie can be a frustrating film, especially when so many have proclaimed it hilarious. I wish I were one of them. The parts I laughed at the most were when Fujio and Mitsuo plastered zombies with their truck. Even when I saw it coming, I still began to gut-laugh a little bit. The build-up to those moments just felt right, tinged with silly slapstick but effective. There are also a few special twists to the character of Mitsuo that I never would’ve been able to guess, had the film not revealed them. These are also the best parts of the movie, both of which clock in at less than three minutes combined. Tokyo Zombie can’t be recommended on the basis of these aspects alone, though. It’s not a terrible film, just a very bland and boring one that has a tough time keeping the viewer interested.

Rating: ★★☆☆

-Chris Luedtke

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