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Film Review: High Heeled Punishers (1994)

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SYNOPSIS:

A woman is being sexually assaulted by a pair of thugs, when out of the fog appear the High Heeled Cats – a trio of avenging angels, masked and dressed in black. These beautiful vigilantes make a living running a coffee shop by day, and kicking misogynist criminals in the balls by night. Their boss is an elderly lady offering a payback service to women who have been mistreated by men. The cops can’t be seen to allow this kind of behavior, but they are increasingly frustrated with the lack of clues that might lead to the identity of the trio – despite the fact that the two detectives on the case visit the coffee shop daily, to flirt with and grope the waitresses, and drink the occasional cup of coffee. The high heeled honeys eventually bite off more than they can chew when they get on the bad side of a ruthless gangster, who sets a creepy assassin on their trail. Failure to shield their identities from both the cops and the yakuza could prove to be the wreckage of these unprotected pussies, left wide open and at the mercy of their hunters.

REVIEW:

The premise of High Heeled Punishers sounds kooky, kinky and delightfully trashy. Sexy vigilantes dressed in fetish outfits with a feline motif, meting out justice to bad boys and rapists where it hurts, chased by dopey cops who enjoy a bit of sexual harassment themselves when the opportunity arises – the mind reels at the comic potential and sleazy possibilities.

Unfortunately, this film fails to deliver on most counts, and as a result is about as fulfilling as a flaccid phallus on a wedding night. It’s hard to think what kind of audience the filmmakers were targeting; there are costumed heroes fighting for justice, but the film’s too visually flat to represent a comic book aesthetic. It’s a rape and revenge movie, yet the scenes of violence are weak and inoffensive. It seems to be a light and fluffy mainstream screwball comedy at times, albeit one where a captured man is forced to wear a chastity belt with a built-in vibrator…

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There are some inventive touches, mostly relating to the High Heeled Cats’ weapons and ideas of deterrence. The would-be rapists at the beginning of the film are injected with some kind of serum which will render them limp for five years, “developed at NASA to diminish man’s sexual drive” – and you don’t need to ask where they stick the needle. Aside from the aforementioned chastity belt, the Cats whip their victims, hurl steel balls at them that would make Angus Scrimm blush, and smash wrenches or grind their heels into the groin to finish the job.

A half-assed attempt is made to give one of the characters a backstory to justify their unusual career path, but moments like these do no more than detract from the sleazy action. Besides, nobody is fooled – for all the attempts at chalking one up for feminist empowerment, the film wallows in the sexual appeal of its three stars. Plenty of close-up shots of T&A (nudity below the waist being strictly off the table, of course – the Japanese have to draw the line somewhere) show off their trim and luscious bodies, even inviting us into the shower with them, so that we can understand exactly what vigilantes do in their downtime: they bathe.

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Director Takashi Kodama (who?) obviously has a lot of confidence in his stars – who apparently were members of a pop group at the time and supply the tune played over the end credits, putting the final nail in the coffin of the film’s godawful soundtrack. They’re gorgeous – but have you ever seen a naughty Japanese film where the women weren’t? They come off like a homogenized version of Charlie’s Angels, where it’s unclear which character is which from scene to scene, or Catwoman triplets with much less modesty. Ultimately, High Heeled Punishers is about as satisfying as having sex with all your clothes on. Or eating tofu.

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