Movies hate pimps, such as Morgan Freeman in Street Smart, but they usually find madams sassy and fun, like Dolly Parton in Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. The power couple of this alleged thriller happen to be a madam and a pimp, but they are both wildly problematic. Sadly, the term ill-conceived applies to almost all aspects of Adam Sherman’s Tokyo-set She’s Just a Shadow, which is now barely playing in New York.
Honestly, the opening scene is so utterly repellent and completely irredeemable, only true professionals will make it past the first five minutes of Shadow. Let’s call out Sherman right here and now, because he directed, wrote, and produced this exercise in soul-deadening cruelty.
A serial killer has been killing women in a truly horrific manner. The part where he ties them to train tracks like Snidely Whiplash is the only aspect of his M.O. remotely fit for polite discourse. Irene the madam and Red Hot the pimp are not very concerned about the escalating death toll, until the freak starts targeting their girls. Supposedly, Irene was more preoccupied with the power struggle she had been waging against her rival, Blue Sky, but the two exploiters were really more interested in partying with the girls and their vacant-eyed pal, Gaven.
Somehow, Shadow manages to be disturbingly violent and glacially slow. As a thriller, the film is a complete bust. Our protags figure out who the killer is about halfway through, but they opt to do nothing about it, leaving him free to murder more women in their employment.
Among the “woke,” labeling a film misogynistic is a lazy way to demonize films that are not to their aesthetic liking, but in the case of Shadow, it really is true. The violence and belittling of women here are beyond excessive. As an added bonus, Sherman periodically throws in tripped out psychedelic Ozu buffer-transitions from Hell, including utterly baffling shots of smiling blue teeth.
Sadly, this film represents a perilous misstep for Tao Okamoto, who had been building an international rep in some major Hollywood film and television shows (including The Wolverine). Arguably, she is actually pretty good as Irene, but everyone else around her is a mess, flailing around and mangling the dialogue they appear to be repeating phonetically. For obvious reasons, that makes the ridiculously over-written voice-over narrations even more awkward and embarrassing.
This is a bad film according to any objective standard. Sherman cannot even earn credit for the naughty naked bits, because the women’s makeup is so distractingly garish and unattractively heavy. There is flat-out nothing to see here. Absolutely not recommended, She’s Just a Shadow still has a couple of lonely screenings to go at the Cinema Village in New York.