ワイルドゼロ 「Wairudo Zero」
Release Date: August 08th, 1999 (Japan)
Running Time: 98 mins.
Director: Tetsuro Takeuchi
Writer: Satoshi Takagi, Tetsuro Takeuchi (Screenplay),
Starring: Guitar Wolf, Drum Wolf, Bass Wolf, Masashi Endo, Kwancharu Shitichai, Haruka Nakajo, Yoshiyuki Morishita,
Wild Zero is a film from 1999 which was shot in Thailand (doubling up for Japan) and directed by Tetsuro Takeuchi, a veteran of the music video scene. It’s a B-movie about a young guy discovering the power of rock and love with help from real-life garage rock power trio Guitar Wolf.
The story takes place in Asahi, a small town Japan. A young guy named Ace (Masashi Endo) is attending concerts thrown by his heroes Guitar Wolf. He dreams of being a rock star himself and looks the part with his motorbike, leather jacket and quiff. Unfortunately he’s a bit of a lame as is revealed when he interrupts a Mexican stand-off between the band and a seedy club manager.
Ace ends up getting punched out but helps the band out of their sticky situation. Guitar Wolf sees the passion for rock in Ace and make a blood pact with him. They are now rock and roll brothers! They also offer him protection in the form of a whistle. All Ace has to do is blow on the whistle and the band will come to his rescue. It’s a gift that Ace will soon put into use because the very next day all hell breaks loose!
Ace arrives at a gas station robbery orchestrated by three losers. This is where he spies a beautiful woman named Tobio (Kwancharu Shitichai). With his new found confidence (inspired by Guitar Wolf) and a potential lover to impress he saves the place (mostly by accident) from the group of robbers. Unfortunately a bigger threat arrives in the form of a herd of zombies and the two are soon on the run. Maybe it’s time for Ace to use the whistle!
Wild Zero is a zombie movie, sure, but I’d much rather describe it as an advertisement for the band Guitar Wolf who strut into various scenes with coolness emanating from them geared up in their greaser outfits and sunglasses (which they never take off). When they aren’t strutting they are riding their bikes and cars complete with custom paint jobs. The band aren’t great actors but they exude charisma and cool. Their garage rock blasts over the soundtrack continually for the film and it proves to be a fitting accompaniement to the chaos.
They are the highlight. The secondary characters are much more of a drag. A collection of kooks and everyday characters caught up in the alien invasion. There is the three lackaiasical stoner friends who rob the station made up of Hanako and Masao, a bickering couple, and a guy with butterfly knives. A trio of yakuza and some other randoms help fill out the cast. When the film is on them in the zombie apocalypse it lacks spark. Their normalness is their problem. Their normalness highlights the coolness of Guitar Wolf who dominate the scenes they appear in and a few more members of the cast.
There are colourful characters such as a lean and lithe gun runner who blasts anyone who interrupts her in the shower and the drug-dealing club owner who wears a wig and hotpants and runs around blasting guns. There’s also Ace, played as a good-natured everyman by the affable Masashi Endo. His journey to win Tobio’s heart is charming and provides an emotional through-line for the film.
Alas, when they aren’t on the screen the film fizzles out. The pacing is rather shambolic as it lurches from one set-piece to another. It’s like a garage jam Guitar Wolf are performing. They get the thread of a good musical idea that thunders along and sometimes it’s sustained for a sequence, sometimes it cuts out and the band have to try again only instead of music it’s zombies eating brains! The horror references are laboured and some are poorly worked into the film – the film stops as everyone has an argument about seeing Night of the Living Dead. There’s also the stereotypical overacting and mugging for the camera as is expected with a B-movie from Japan.
Amidst the various uneven parts of the film are moments of greatness usually involving Guitar Wolf. The lead of the band, while not the greatest actor is cool enough to be a rock and roll Messiah so it’s always fun to see the different moments of spiritual awakening Ace has such as when Guitar Wolf materialises in a zombie siege and urges the young protag to save his potential lover leading to the, “Rock and roll has no boundaries, nationalities or genders,” speech which is a lovely and progressive sentiment when Ace’s love turns out to be a little more different than anyone expected. It helps deliver an earnest message about doing your best and looking past the surface of things and finding your inner rock and roll hero.
If nothing else, you get to see the lead singer shred through an entire alien ship with a sword hidden in his guitar.