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Review: SHE’S JUST A SHADOW (2019)

When a film opens with a cop pulling a naked woman from the trunk of a police car and tying her to railroad tracks with elaborate rope work, you know you’re not watching a normal movie. When the cop then proceeds to jerk off all over her as a train approaches before retreating to film her death, you know you’ve gone off the filmic deep end. And when the next two scenes involve an orgy and a bloody pool hall brawl you’re watching Adam Sherman’s (Crazy Eyes) latest film, She’s Just A Shadow. Whether that’s a good or bad thing will be a matter of opinion.

The script for She’s Just A Shadow involves a Tokyo madam Irene (Tao Okamoto, Laplace’s Witch) and her girls. She’s involved with a pimp, Red Hot (Kentez Asaka). Two of her girls, Tanya (Haruka Abe) and Beth (Mercedes Maxwell), are involved with cocaine-addicted gangster Gaven (Kihiro).

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As Gaven’s crew prepares for war with another group of Yakuza, a serial killer is targeting Irene’s stable. Will anyone avoid a bloody death? Will any of them sober up long enough to care?

Shot in Tokyo with a Japanese cast but filmed in English, She’s Just A Shadow is a bizarre mix of style, sleaze, and pretension. There are incredible amounts of blood spilled and female flesh bared. Gavin’s cocaine use makes Tony Montana look straight edge by comparison, and the rest of the cast indulges heavily as well.

Shes Just A Shadow

And then there’s the work of The Train Tracks Killer, as he’s referred to. We get a look at his work in the opening scene. And he continues to play a part in the film. She’s Just A Shadow takes its time explaining his connection to everything else. But we get to witness plenty of his handiwork while we wait.

She’s Just A Shadow would play out like a mix of Japanese pinku eiga and yakuza films with 60s and 70s American exploitation films if it wasn’t for the incredible cinematography and set design. The film looks beautiful with its colourful lighting and almost equally colourfully made-up Harajuku styled hookers. The film’s look is a direct contrast to the tackiness of the people and actions it depicts. If you thought The Neon Demon mixed style and sleaze, wait till you see this.

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On the downside, there’s a lot of time spent on unlikeable characters spouting lines like the one the film takes its title from. “Women: no matter how human they seem—they’re not. They’re just shadows. But on the other hand, aren’t we all?”. Or, “If you have sex with a prostitute, you become a prostitute. Sex makes two bodies one flesh.”. The attempt to give She’s Just A Shadow and its decadent denizens some depth just seems out of place among the exploitable elements of the script. Trying to justify sleaze as art didn’t work back in the day, and it doesn’t work now.

This is a film that will polarize viewers. Some will find it a refreshingly nasty throwback to the grindhouse. Others will see She’s Just A Shadow as pretentious, misogynistic garbage. Still, others will just be terminally offended. While I can see its multiple flaws, I still overall liked it.

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Breaking Glass Pictures will release She’s Just A Shadow on VOD and DVD October 22nd.

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