Hard Revenge Milly (Hâdo ribenji, Mirî) is a Japanese action film that places its focus on Milly (Miki Mizuno), a young woman who is looking to take revenge on those that murdered her family and left her for dead. For the first half - of this very short 44 minute film – time is spent with Milly as she reflects on what happened to her and her family in a series of intercut flashbacks. All of this is happening while she is in the midst of taking her revenge, as she takes out one of her enemies, uses him as bait, then waits for the rest of his crew to show up so she can take care of them next.
Definitely targeted at Western audiences, Hard Revenge Milly is a mixed bag that works in a few ways, but fails in many others. Much like the new wave of over-the-top Japanese exploitation cinema of recent years, the film has some outlandish elements, but they really don’t fit in well with this film. Hard Revenge Milly is - for much of the short runtime - very serious in how it presents itself but trades in that tone in the second half for outlandish enemies and silly deaths that go way overboard.
Seeing as this is an action film - with a character that carries a samurai sword and has a shotgun embedded in her leg - the film goes about getting to the action at a dead snail's pace. When the viewer is first introduced to Milly, it is as she does an impressive and very bloody kill, then the movie goes back to what led her to that moment as we learn a little about her character. Now, the next action oriented moment doesn't happen until 12 minutes in, and it's the same one that the film opens with. Cool scene, but in a film this short, I expected a lot more to happen by that point.
No real action even happens until 20 or so minutes into the movie, which is half its length, but it is how this slow build up to the action is handled that would actually be the strength of Hard Revenge Milly. All of the focus is on Milly, who silently prepares and waits patiently for her targets to show so she can eradicate them. As she is preparing, Milly has her motivational flashback moments so the viewer can see just what put her in the place she's in now.
It is nice to have a movie such as this go a reflective route, but it also is all for not when things begin to get goofy. If you're doing a film like this, go all the way with the cartoonish elements or don't go at all. There could have been a solid little movie here if the tone had stayed serious. Director Takanori Tsujimoto definitely has talent which is displayed quite nicely in what is a very low budget film. With some great angles and use of space, the movie is nicely made overall and a bit reminiscent of the styling of an unpolished Ryuhei Kitamura.
While I generally prefer my Martial Arts styled action to be grand and very open in scope, Hard Revenge Milly goes the way of quick edited action sequences, but it is done most impressively with some great editing. The scenes are tight and most of the time the action was easy to follow and made sense in how it flowed. However, some of the action is taken down a notch with the abysmal CGI and practical make up. It's not all bad, but there are some awful moments that would seem completely out of place and really take away from the serious tone that the movie has at times.
Overall, Hard Revenge Milly is okay at best. It would've been nice if the filmmakers chose to go one way or the other - preferably the more serious tone - as I would really like to see what Takanori Tsujimoto is capable of as a patient storyteller. In addition, while I have enjoyed the insanity that has come out of Japan that is geared towards American audiences, it has all become a little tired and played out. I enjoyed the film just enough to want to check out the sequel, subtitled Blood Battles, but I hope it can step it up a bit as it does come in at 74 minutes, which may prove to be too much for a film of this ilk if some of these wrongs aren't at least somewhat righted.