Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2012: Sushi Girl

Sushi Girl is immediately going to spawn comparisons to Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs, and I think it's a comparison that, while somewhat apt, sells Tony Todd's project (he acts as executive producer as well as the lead here) a bit short. It's true that Sushi Girls basic premise bears a certain resemblance to 'the most successful independent film of all time' — a group of criminals assemble with the intent to root out the betrayal perpetrated by one of their own — but it's the characters and the 'torture porn' here that distinguishes Sushi Girl from Reservoir Dogs, and, of course, the conceit described by the film's title.

Kern Saxton's film follows Fish (Noah Hathaway) on his first night out of jail, as he attends a meeting with his criminal associates Duke (Todd) the leader, Francis (James Duval) the drug addict, Max (Andy MacKenzie) the tough enforcer, and in a show-stealing performance, Mark Hamill (!!)'s Crow, a twisted, perverted individual who evokes Heath Ledger's Joker in more ways than one. Duke's plan is to find out what has become of the diamonds from their last heist — the heist for which Fish took the fall. Throughout the film we're given bits and pieces of the heist through flashbacks revealed as they are relayed to the other guests. At the centre of it all — literally — is the stunning girl (Cortney Palm) who, in true Yakuza tradition, lies naked on the table clad only in pieces of sushi. She remains utterly nude and utterly motionless for the vast majority of the film, functioning more as a set piece than a character. However, she has a secret that drives the film to an interesting left turn.

Hamill's performance here is so good and so completely trans-formative that you almost forget that there's anyone else in the scene when he's speaking and there's certainly no Luke Skywalker to be found here. Palm goes through fearfulness, completely submissiveness, and ultimately strength as the film wears on. Duval is also a standout, bringing his LA stoner sensibility to the frenetic Francis character. Overseeing it all is Todd's Duke, who is measured and utterly menacing in the way that only the man who played Candyman can deliver.

In a fun turn, one flashback to the robbery features a scene with some of the biggest genre heavyweights assembled since The Expendables — Michael Biehn, Danny Trejo, Jeff Fahey, and Sonny Chiba. Not exactly the meatiest roles for any of them (most are little more than cameos), but it's always good to see these guys onscreen, and they definitely have enough presence to elicit some laughs from the audience.

All in all, Sushi Girl is a fun little gangster/caper film with a few neat twists and a couple of stomach-turning torture scenes. It distinguishes itself nicely from its genre predecessors and it's pretty much exactly what any After Dark filmgoer would ever want.

The trailer below (one of the few good ones from the After Dark lineup this year) is actually worth watching and doesn't give away anything important from the film, so watch away!


We've been posting reviews of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival all week. You can find them the rest here.

This review was written by Sachin Hingoo, a freelance writer when he is not working at an office job that is purpose-built for paying the bills while he works as a freelance writer.  His writing has appeared on, the CBC Street Level Blog,, and The Midnight Madness Blog for the Toronto International Film Festival. He has also been featured at Toronto lecture series Trampoline Hall (which is rumored to be excellent). His mutant power is 'feigning interest'. You can read all of his posts here.

Photos: Production still and poster from Sushi Girl


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