Mezzo Forte (2001) Movie Review

Except for two explicit sex scenes that have no real relevance with the narrative, Yasuomi Umetsu’s “Mezzo Forte” might just be the best action-comedy anime I’ve seen in a while. It’s certainly better than Umetsu’s last effort, the underage-girl-as-killer-and-love-slave film “Kite”. While that movie was mired by overt hints of pedophilia and bloated action, “Mezzo Forte” gets to skate by because the whole thing is played with a wink and grin.

“Mezzo Forte” concerns a trio of freelancers — Mikura, the girl with the big eyes and superhero-like abilities; Harada, the heavily tattooed and pierced android expert; and Kuro, the ex-cop who runs the outfit — well, sort of. After a botched black market deal, the trio is running low on money, forcing them to take a job kidnapping baseball owner Momoi. But Momoi isn’t just another George Steinbrenner; when one of his pitchers can’t find the strike zone, Momoi corrects it with a baseball bat to the pitcher’s head. Alas, the kidnapping goes awry, and Momoi ends up dead. Unfortunately for our heroes, Momoi has a daughter name Momomi, and there’s a reason her nickname is “psycho bitch”.

“Mezzo Forte” clocks in at 50 minutes of actual movie time, coming in 2 30-minute episodes (plus credits). Like “Kite” and Japanese anime in general, the animation here consists of traditional cels and is quite flawless throughout. The action scenes are outstanding, but what is surprising is that the script is also very funny. Written and directed by Yasuomi Umetsu, “Mezzo Forte” has little resemblance to “Kite”, which was mostly a brooding and dark film undermined by lack of logic.

The light comedic moments work in “Mezzo Forte”, and while the film is never laugh out loud funny, there are a lot of chuckles to be had. As mentioned, “Mezzo Forte” also has two very explicit and graphic sex scenes that do nothing to move the story forward. Since this is the Director’s Cut of the movie, I can only assume that the edited version edits out the explicit nature of these two scenes. If this is the case, I can safely say (and probably for the first time) that the edited version is the better movie.

But for all the things it gets right, Umetsu’s script also introduces a number of subplots that goes absolutely nowhere. While it was nice to get exposition on Kuro’s past via a Detective, the film does more than just hint at some sort of relationship between Mikura and Momomi (the two characters actually look very much alike), but this goes absolutely nowhere. Why bring up the idea, and then continue to hint at it, if there were no intentions of following up? Besides the two female characters getting inexplicable visions about each other, Momomi also has a dream about Mikura where it’s insinuated that she and Mikura are related somehow.

“Mezzo Forte” has all of “Kite’s” outrageous action sequences and animated flair, but what it (thankfully) doesn’t have is that other movie’s darkness. Instead of somber moments, “Mezzo” have a number of successful gags. This is one of those movies that beg for sequel, and to follow the continued adventures of Mikura, Harada, and Kuro would be quite a treat.

But if you plan on watching “Mezzo Forte”, my suggestion is to go for the edited version.

Yasuomi Umetsu (director) / Yasuomi Umetsu (screenplay)

Buy Mezzo Forte on DVD