Action and genre movies are the bread and butter of low-budget/indie filmmaking. So, it’s absence from many indie movies in Japan is rather pecuiliar. Horror movies certainly are represented, but action movies, from martial arts to swordplay movies, are quite few and far between. Even more rare are gun-action movies and the ones that do exist are usually not very convincing. This is due to the unavailability of guns which act like their real counterparts; stunt guns. Even studio movies suffer from weaponry with little to no recoil, no casing ejection, and only the barest of muzzle flash in addition to the lack of squibs which accurately portray the mayhem of a gunfight. However, a veteran Japanese prop master has devised a way to upgrade model guns to act like real guns for a fraction of the cost it takes to downgrade real guns to perform as stunt guns perhaps signalling a possible renaissance in Japanese gunplay movies, especially in independent movie circles.
Yonishi Toshinari’s Sapphire is a girls-with-guns movie taken to the next level. Despite its limited budget, Sapphire has the look and feel of the slick action movies often made in other regions, particularly the west. More importantly, Yonishi doesn’t shy away from thinking big despite his indie means, using CG to bring in an F-35 while also enhancing the action with smoke, dust, sparks and debris normally done through practical squibs. And the story? A girl grows up as part of a kill squad, but soon begins to remember her past and the connection to the leader of the private military corporation to which she belongs. As more of the truth comes to the fore, she makes a decision to act for herself instead of obeying orders. Let the mayhem begin.
[UPDATE: brand new and improved, english-subtitled trailer]
If there is one thing which must be pointed out, the trailer needs to be recut to focus on selling the crux of the story and building a mood rather than trying to tout (and ultimately spoil) the movie’s action set pieces. Yonishi certainly has an eye for marketing imagery (see the Facebook page) but in the YouTube age, the trailer has to be better.