Cat's Eye

Director: Kaizo Hayashi
Year: 1997
Production Company: Fuji Television
Running Time: 90 minutes

Sometimes there are certain small things in a film that appeal to you and will allow you to overlook many of its faults – for example three beautiful women attired in tight black latex cat suits with little cat ears perched above their heads can make just about any film watchable for me. This may well not be the case for many people, but women in black latex suits are a plus for me. Irma Vep comes to mind – has Maggie Cheung ever looked better in her life than when she was zipped into one in that film? Throw on top of that the fact that these three women are cat burglars with lots of cat like powers and you have a winner in my book. Based on a manga that ran from 1981 to 1985, this is a colorful bit of pop catnip that is hard to resist on some juvenile fan boy level. Not much more sophisticated than the Batman television shows and certainly taking cues from it, this almost feels like a retro trip back in time.

Cat’s Eye consists of three sisters – Rui (Norika Fujiwara – in her debut film - later in China Strike Force), the brains of the trio, Ai (Yuki Uchida), the hotheaded one who is a mechanical genius and Hitomi (Izumi Inamori), a master of disguises. These three were left as orphans after their mother was killed and their painter father was kidnapped by a Chinese gang called Ko-Ryu-Dan. They trained to become these cat super heroines in order to find their father and are now in the process of stealing all of his paintings in hopes that this will provide clues to his present whereabouts. How this will help isn’t quite clear. But they want his paintings back anyway. Unfortunately, it is not as easy as buying them because they are now held in museums and private collections – so the solution is to steal them of course. Making this even more difficult but sporting I guess is their need to warn the police ahead of time that they will be doing so and even at what time. In true classic comic book tradition, making fools of the cops is half the fun. They have some rather neat tools at their disposal – a camouflaged mouse car that can discard its body to reveal three speedy motorcycles underneath, steel cat claws that allow them to crawl up walls and ceilings as well as slash and defend themselves and a parachute glider contraption with a big cat emblazoned on it that they use to get away. Another cool thing about them is that when they change into their Cat Eye identities, their hair automatically fluffs up and changes style! They also have their own theme song from the group ANRI like real super heroes have.
In charge of capturing them within the ranks of the cops is the woeful but sweet Toshio (singer Kenta Uchida) who is determined but not all that clever. He has a girlfriend who turns out to be Hitomi – she and her two sisters own a little café – called Cat’s Eye – that Toshio visits all the time. Hmmm – could it be? Nope, he never quite makes that difficult connection. In a film like this you need some villains of course and this is accomplished by the return of the Ko-Ryu-Dan gang who want to first use Cat’s Eye to steal the “Eye of the Dragon” and then kill them. Looking like escapees from the Hong Kong film Heroic Trio, the gang dresses up in ancient costumes, has an Emperor – though Emperor of what I am not sure – and a retinue of dwarves, courtesans and white faced kung fu killers. There is also the dreaded Dragon Lady Miss Wong who is an expert in disguises and who wants her son Black Flag, a three bladed killing machine, to usurp the Emperor. It isn’t very deep but it’s rather light fun for those who like their comic book heroes in 3-D form and these women are definitely 3-D.
Though the budget isn’t vast by any means, it still manages to have a nice glisten about it with lots of colorful costumes and sets, a few decent action sequences and some lovely moments. My favorite visual has to be when Hitomi disguises herself as an older heavy set white woman who goes into the lair of the bad guys and Miss Wong figues out who she is and brings a sword down upon her head. This splits the woman in half, but Hitomo in her cat suit is revealed to be inside and jumps into action. Black Flag is played by Ken Kosugi, the son of the legendary action star Sho Kosugi, and he shows a few athletically muscular moves. This may initially seem like an odd choice for director Kaizo Hayashi who directed the Maka Hama trilogy, but it fits in with his liking of American pop culture and is a fun addition to the costume hero genre.

My rating for this film: 7.0