A film whose opening is a knife fight between two women over how much one of them has just had her breasts kissed sets itself a challenge in taking its narrative anywhere other than somewhere more boring. A challenge that ‘Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter’ attempts to meet headon, with mixed results.
The plot, such as it is, surrounds an all girl gang and their feud with their male counterparts called the Eagles who see them as their own sexual property. This concept of sexual ownership, representing the wider concept of the ownership of one’s society, is challenged when two members, Mako and Mari, fall for Ichiro and Kazuma, two mixed race outsiders.
Baron, the Eagles’ leader learns of these relationships and leads his gang on a citywide vendetta against all “halfbreeds” and it is this violence that forms the backdrop against which the different intertwining story threads of racism and love play out.
Sex Hunter laudably explores japanese society’s propensity to label victims of sexual violence as tainted and compares this unpleasant cultural stigma to the shame attached to being mixed race. That being said this is a stolid genre film so its handling of these subjects are lurid in the extreme to the extent that it may put off many viewers.
The film is shot in deliciously over saturated colours that mimic American cinema of the time. It skips energetically across genres beginning as a musical, switching to revenge film before becoming a western, all the while being shot with the sensibility of a blaxploitation film. Tarantino has clearly been trying to recreate the sensibility of Sex Hunter but thankfully this film has none of the insufferable inauthenticity of his latest work.
You will not find many films that rely so much on its soundtrack to set the pace and push the narrative as Sex Hunter. It acts as the tent poles that keeps the wispy, inconsistent and often incoherent plot from falling down completely. Indeed I would argue that the soundtrack and cinematography are by far the most important aspects of the film. They provide the glamour and sensual buzz that allow you to enjoy the story even when you know it to be ludicrous. (NB The soundtrack is hard to find online and is only available from extortionate import sites that only a fool would buy from. Mine is being delivered in three weeks…)
Sex Hunter rather than telling a traditional three act story, concentrates on building an atmosphere. The appalling editing that allows characters to appear without introduction cannot dent this hallucinatory aura. Nor can subtitles that read like they have been written by someone who can neither speak in Japanese nor write in English detract from what is a flawed but massively enjoyable viewing experience.
Words by Neil McComb
Image from BFI pages