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Cruel Restaurant (2008)

DVD Cover (Switchblade Pictures)
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5.8
 / 10
4 votes
Genres:
Cannibal Film, Horror, Sex Horror
Director:
Kji Kawano Kji Kawano
Starring:
Mihiro Mihiro
Sakae Yamazaki Sakae Yamazaki
Katsuya Naruse Katsuya Naruse
Ysuke Iwata Ysuke Iwata
Miho Funatsu Miho Funatsu
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Review by Tristan
Added: December 15, 2008
"Warning - This Film Contains Graphic Violence". Not really a shocker, is it? I mean, what other reason would someone have for watching a Japanese movie titled Cruel Restaurant, than to see just that - graphic violence. Nevertheless, this is the title card that opens tonight's movie, a hilarious little B-movie romp with enough nudity and violence to make anyone happy. Since I've been on a bit of an Asian horror kick lately, I thought what better way to kick off some reviews than with a with a little gem like this.

Our film starts with a fisherman reeling in what he hopes to be his big catch of the day. I suppose he was sort of right, since he managed to hook himself a severed arm. On the beach at the time is investigative reporter Shirizawa. She receives a call from her chief to visit the local dumpling restaurant, Tougen Dumplings and see what all the fuss is about. Apparently the dumplings are to die for, and nobody knows what the special ingredient is. Mr. Chin, restaurant manager and head chef, has sworn to never give up his secret, and won't allow anyone to apprentice under him. His only trusted associate is his waitress, Ms. Lin. After causing quite a scene, Masumoto, a local food critic, teams up with Shirizawa to uncover the restaurant's dark secret. She's convinced the secret ingredient is humans, as her sister attended the restaurant not long before and then disappeared. Thrown into the mix are two bumbling cops who are just as convinced as Masumoto that the popular dumplings are made of people. All these parts combined are a pretty good recipe for one of the better dark comedies I've seen in ages.

For a film like this, it's almost a cheap shot to attack the acting, storyline, and special effects. Nobody was trying to win an Oscar when they thought up this little number in an office somewhere. There probably wasn't much talk beyond where to get the cheapest fake blood, the hottest actresses and the most convenient sets. Like all B-movies, this one suffered from the same flaws that are almost considered a standard now. Cheesy acting? Check. Recycled plot? Check. Buckets of gore and attractive topless girls? Double check. I simply can't harp on these qualities because not only do I love them, they just make a movie ever so much fun. My only major complaint with this one is that it never really lived up to the "graphic violence" warning. Maybe it just takes a lot to shock me, but I wouldn't have minded an extra murder here or a beheading there.

As per usual, it is impossible to put the actor's name to the character. Try as I might, I just can't translate Japanese. So rather than praise the actor's themselves, I'll just comment on the characters, and you can take it from there. While I initially despised him, Mr Chin turned out to be one of my favourite characters. He was sort of boring, but once they started using him more, he was a lot of fun. His final scene in the movie was quite well done and very funny in a creepy sort of way. Another great performance came from the shy but deadly Ms. Lin. Not only was she absolutely stunning, but there's something very dark buried beneath her plain Jane exterior.

Since it received a US release in the last week or so, I doubt it if many of you have watched Kji Kawano's previous film "The Girls Rebel Force of Competitive Swimmers" I had the pleasure of checking that one out some months ago on a recommendation. Even though the films are only a year apart, you can see how much Kawano grew as a director. This film seems a lot more stylized and the pacing seems a lot better. This might sound like contrived film jargon bullshit, but I wouldn't lie to you people. This film just seemed to flow together a lot smoother, whereas TGRFoCS had scenes that totally broke the tension of the film and were obviously thrown in for shock value. That's not to say this film didn't have its odd moments. There was a time or two where I felt a scene was thrown in for nothing more than sex appeal. It did contribute to the story however, so there was at least some point.

It wasn't exactly what I hoped it would be, but I still got a kick out of it. If you're a fan of this brand of off-the-wall dark humour, this one's for you. I didn't enjoy it quite as much as Kawano's previous effort, but it was definitely more polished. Normally I would have gone with a 6 or 7, but since the last scene was a complete "what-the-fuck?", I'll have to go a little higher. For this one, I think an 8/10 is in order.
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Farley #1: Farley - added 02/03/2009, 01:07 AM
I need to get me some of those dumplings.
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