For his second feature film, former animator Katsuhito Ishii once again decides to stay close to his roots and adapt a comic book. The moderately successful Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl (Samehada Otoko To Momojiri Onna, 1998) showed that the young director had a flair of visual storytelling and colourful characters, and with Party 7 he has simply decided to take it up a few notches.
The film kicks off with a terrific turbo-speed animated credit sequence which introduces each of the main characters, then turns into a colour-saturated collection of comic book characters come to life, all of whom are gathering in and around mega-kitsch Hotel New Mexico somewhere in the deserted countryside. So far so good: you've got colourful characters, an interesting setting, and the promise of that dynamic credit sequence. So why does the rest of the film consist of these characters sitting in a hotel room yelling at each other?
Clearly the objective here is to deliver an old-fashioned farce, full of slamming doors, heated arguments and exaggerated acting. But everything about Party 7 feels forced and strained, even for a genre which thrives on exaggeration: the constant yelling, hammy performances, overabundance of useless characters, right down to the inflated tire-sized collagen lips of the pretty but bland Akemi Kobayashi. It also seems that Ishii has learned nothing from the result of his debut film. The pacing problems that marred Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl have only increased with Party 7, while the dialogue continues to consist of the kind of hollow claptrap of the post-Tarantino generation that make the first film feel so dated only three years after its release.
Party 7 utterly fails to deliver and Ishii handles the potential of the material with underwhelming shortsightedness. Surely something could have been done with these characters that would have made the film at least entertaining, rather than having them yell at each other in a hotel room for close to two hours? Now it all adds up to a big, overblown piece of nothing, which nevertheless leaves you feeling drained and worn-out at the end.