Explosive exploitation from the land of fried fish balls, CRIMINAL WOMAN is a super-solid example of the sukeban/pinky violence genre. The film isn't coy about flashing its charms right from the start. We're pitched into an opening that offers dancing breasts, knife violence, and rollicking roadside strip club jazz, a gallimaufry of this film's ample scuzzy charms.
Would-be knife murderess Maki has good reason to be steamed. Her dad was done in by the local yakuza. And when she tries to get payback, she gets arrested and heads to jail. The jail scenes arguably have the movie's best moments, especially the "how'd you get here?" flashbacks for each girl. Disclaimer: ladies drinking booze on motorcycles while pursued by cops is awesome in the movies, but don't do it in real life, OK.
Also don't join girl-girl knife fights with strap match mouth stipulations, unless you have a really good reason.
The jail stuff is really just the prologue, though, as we fast-forward a number of years and catch up with our bad girls, ready to wipe out the local criminal scum. This portion of the film is a few steps below the jail stuff, but it's still loaded with fun. We get maidens using their girl guiles to outsmart gangsters in tailored suits, and PS many explosions. What's not to love?
Plus the post-jail period introduces us to Tetsu, the son of a local yakuza magnate. He will win your heart with his gruff swaggering and his omnipresent magnum of gas station wine.
There's also one incredibly well-mounted house attack, with a group of suited yakuza attacking another triad in Saturday dress. These scenes are sharply edited and feature very energetic dying by the fatally-wounded actors, always a pleasure to see.
Just as with the jail stuff, though, the placement of this scene steals the thunder from the rest of the film, as the action here won't be matched by the lady killing that follows.
No one can deny that ladies in pantsuits fighting to the death is a great thing. And yet these scenes lack the tension or the action of the home invasion and CRIMINAL WOMAN does sort of fail to stick its landing. That's a very minor criticism of a very enjoyable film and it should not hinder you from seeing this immediately. How craaazy is it that Japan, not famous for progressive gender politics, had this boom of woman-driven action films well before epic yawners like CHARLIE'S ANGELS and THELMA & LOUISE?