Burning Action – Superheroine Chronicles Burnout Neo Vol.1 from Zen Pictures contains the best fight choreography and editing I’ve ever seen in the heroine peril genre. While the costumes and performances are a little disappointing, the amazing action sequences make this a worthwhile purchase, in my opinion.
We begin in an airport, and already I’m impressed by the use of what appears to be an actual airport terminal as a shooting location. (In actuality, this set appears to be the large warehouse area from Zen’s Smart 109, but the producers have done a nice job on selling this space as a real airport.) Our two lovely heroines, played by Ayani Tanigaki and Asami, wander around the airport and discuss something over their cell phones. There’s a very Heat vibe to this scene, as if the heroines are either planning to execute a thrilling heist or perhaps intend to put a stop to the bad guys’ plans (I’m referring, of course, to the Michael Mann Heat, and not the Burt Reynolds Heat).
At about the five-minute mark, one of the heroines walks over to one of the bad guys (we know he’s “bad” because he looks really mean and there’s really no other reason for him to spend any time on screen) and pretends to ask for a lighter for her cigarette. He obliges (though very rudely—exactly the way a bad guy would do it). She smokes. And it occurs to me as I watch this that this may in fact be the most boring Zen movie I’ve ever seen, and maybe one of the most boring movies from any producer I’ve ever seen. Until seconds later, when the henchman in question whips out his handgun, initiating the film’s first fight/shootout scene. Thank God.
As it turns out, this is a superb action sequence, with lots and lots of shooting and gun-play, and of course some hand-to-hand martial arts fighting action, in which the ladies take on multiple attackers. There’s a truly impressive shot in which one of the bad guys is hit and rolls down the handrail part of an escalator, only to get back up, run back towards the heroine at the top of the escalator and get hit again—this all happens while our heroine simultaneously fights two attackers at the top of the escalator in the same shot. What a great piece of stunt work and choreography. (And if you don’t care about any of that, there’s lots of up-skirt action here as well.) There’s another nice shot—a tracking shot which follows Tanigaki as she pushes her way frantically through a crowd while trying to exit the front of the airport. Even without the gun-play, and some fairly impressive gun and blood-splatter effects, I’d have to say that this is one of the most exciting and well-executed fight sequences I’ve ever seen from Zen Pictures.
Meanwhile, back at the bad guys’ evil base, two guards watch over a middle aged male prisoner. Suddenly, a man who appears to be quite adept at martial arts steps in, defeats the guards easily, and apprehends the prisoner. Later, in a scene that may or may not have anything to do with this, a guy in a purple suit beats up a bunch of his own henchmen. (This is pretty much how I imagine villains spending most of their spare time.) He receives a phone call informing him of… something. Who knows? Later, our heroines sit in an office and allow us to see how different their personalities are. They’re the classic Riggs and Murtaugh—one logical, calm and reasonable; the other wild and crazy. I suspect these two will be forced to work together despite their opposing character traits, only to realize a deep, fundamental mutual respect as a result of their adventures. But mostly, I just hope there’s some more gratuitous crotch shots.
Our two heroines venture out and encounter an old man walking his dog. They have a nice conversation with him and pick him up. I’m guessing this is the classic Lethal Weapon 2 plot, in which our two reluctant hero partners are forced to put aside their differences to protect an eccentric third character (like Joe Pesci) who holds the key to the mystery. And in fact, the Zen Pictures web site reveals that this character is the developer of Neo Energy, which I’m sure the bad guys want to get their grubby little hands on. In my opinion, the video at this point could use some Neo Energy; after a truly thrilling action sequence, it’s been nothing but plot exposition for almost 20 minutes at this point. (This would be a perfect opportunity for a Zen Pictures car chase, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be, apparently. Maybe someday…)
As the ladies attempt to escort the creator of Neo Energy to the airport, they are ambushed by a group of Zen Pictures thugs. And this was totally worth the wait. Asami mows down a small army of henchmen with a machine gun while Tanigaki fights hand-to-hand and leads the eccentric old man around in an attempt to protect him. Again, the choreography and camerawork is simply the best that I’ve seen in this genre. Eventually, Tanigaki, without her gun, runs into a group of five thugs. She pushes the creator of Neo Energy aside and fights them. She holds her own and defeats the thugs, but that’s when the purple-suited villain (who appears to have the same tailor as The Joker) shows up and challenges her to a fight. These two actors obviously have some martial arts experience, and this is another really great fight scene. I actually found myself on the edge of my seat anticipating the outcome of the fight. Sadly (and fortunately), our heroine loses and gets hauled off to the bad guys’ lair.
Meanwhile, Asami, our other heroine, fights a group of thugs somewhere else in the warehouse. This is yet one more great fight sequence. Just as in the previous fight scene, a villain shows up (the guy who freed the prisoner earlier) and challenges Asami to a one-on-one battle. Just as Asami has the bad guy to her advantage, the thugs step in, throw her to the ground, and beat and stomp the crap out of her. Eventually, they hear sirens approaching, so they decide to get the hell out of there.
Back at the evil lair, Ayana Tanigaki has been tied up AOH and is being tortured with punches by the bad guys. This is a pretty short torture scene followed by another torture scene in which Tanigaki is tied to a chair and punched and slapped some more. This is how the movie ends, leaving us breathless with anticipation over whether or not our beloved heroine will survive the torture, whether or not there will be a sequel (there is), and most of all, whether or not the old man will reveal the secrets behind his Neo Energy (whatever that is). Whatever the case, I suggest you spend some of your Neo Energy to purchase this film from Zen Pictures. That is, if you want to see some really outstanding fight sequences with amazing fight choreography, editing and camerawork.
On the other hand, the costumes really aren’t that sexy, Ayana Tanigaki isn’t quite the hottest heroine ever to grace the small screen (I suspect she was chosen for her martial arts ability and not for her acting or looks… although don’t get me wrong, she’s a very attractive girl), and fans of heroine torture will most likely be disappointed with the very short torture sequences here. Aside from that, I admire the action scenes so much that I’m willing to overlook its flaws and highly recommend this film from Zen Pictures.
Chronicles Burnout Vol. 1 at Zen Pictures