Eat and Run -- 6 Beautiful Grifters

Bottom Line: Women challenge the motto "there's no free lunch" in an amusing but stylistically uneven omnibus.

Tokyo International Film Festival

TOKYO -- Stripping naked, shooting the sheriff, trafficking drugs, humping in the cornfield, spouting conspiracy theories or blowing a giant mecha-robot off the galaxy... there's nothing these famished femmes wouldn't do to get a free bite in "Eat and Run -- 6 Beautiful Grifters," this easy-to-swallow food-themed omnibus cooked up by Japanese animation guru Mamoru Oshii and four other up-and-coming directors.

This is the sequel to the tour de force animation "Tachigui -- the Amazing Lives of the Fast Food Grifters," which was in turn an expanded riff from his TV anime series "Urusei Yatsura." In that film, Oshii ("Ghost in the Shell," "Patlabor," "Avalon") charted the socio-political changes in post-war Japan through the culinary compass of her evolving tachigui (stand-and-eat) culture. With only one fully animated segment, this sequel has no unified style, nor the incisive sociological angle and the sullen poetry of its predecessor's Edward Hopperesque image texture. "Eat and Run" is more of a digestible TV dinner for mass consumption. As a result, it is less academic or idiosyncratic, and has more chance for limited theatrical release abroad. Festivals will love to have this on their list, and Oshii's fans will still acquire the DVD for collection purposes.

"Eat and Run" comprises six stand-alone segments featuring legendary women who perfected the art of fly-by-night dining. The first, "Princess Goldfish," directed by Oshii, is the most sensuous. Recreating nostalgic streets and furnishings of Showa-era Japan, it uses gorgeous CGI and exhibits a woman's seductive tattoo with tantalizing cinematography.

"The Drunk and the Dead" features John Woo-like gun-slinging choreography and a pesky sharp-shooting heroine with a weakness for vintage bourbon. But it's just another pastiche of Spaghetti Westerns that's all sauce and no meat. "Dandelion" makes some mockumentary analysis of the economic context of the Japanese "family restaurant" (chain diners) and its rise to become flagship of the food industry, but the story is weak and handling amateurish.

"Whispers in the Grass" is luscious to look at, but the heroine Kumi's seduction of men just to get her lips on kakigoi (strawberry frappe) is the skimpiest pretext for vacuous soft porn. Closest in kindred spirit to "Tachigui" is "The Pop Music Angel," which spins an incredible yarn about the government's conspiracy to turn the nation into morons by TV mind-control and promoting idols. Last segment, "Assault Girl", directed by Oshii, is a VFX fantasy that sends up sexy female space warriors in sci-fi films while making a cheeky homage to KFC. Keeping it short and fast, the effects are finger-licking good.

Geneon Entertainment Inc/Deiz Co Ltd
Directors: Mamoru Oshii (Supervisor), Makoto Kamiya, Kenji Kamiyama, Takanori Tsujimoto, Hiroaki Yuasa
Based on an original concept by: Mamoru Oshii
Producer: Atsushi Kubo
Executive producer: Yuki Mori
VFX Supervisors: Nobuki Sato, Makoto Kamiya
Music: Kenji Kawai
Bekko-Candy Yuri: Yuriko Hishimi
Quickdraw Miki: Mizuno Miki
Cafeteria Mabu: Mabuki Ando
Kumi the Strawberry Frappe: Yoko Fujita
Mami the Crepe Mania: Yuko Ogura
Hinako the Kentucky: Saeki Hinako
Running time -- 123 minutes
No MPAA rating