The Machine Girl (2008)
Directed by: Noboru Iguchi
Starring: Minase Yashiro, Asami, Nobuhiro Nishimura, Honoka, Kentaro Shimazu, Ryousuke Kawamura
(out of 4)
Wow, don’t I feel inadequate!
About 13 minutes in to Noboru Iguchi’s Kataude mashin gāru (from here on referred to as The Machine Girl), teenage yakuza/ninja in training Sho (Nobuhiro Nishimura) is made to drink his father’s (Kentaro Shimazu) blood, which flows from dad’s wrist to son’s mouth in copious amounts of crimson, to “strengthen their bond”. Of course, by this time, we’ve already seen our heroine Ami Hyuga (a cute and tough Minase Yashiro in her first acting role) take revenge on multiple teen yakuza bullies by blasting them to pieces with a machine gun attached to the stump where her arm used to be.
The Machine Girl is full of flying limbs, decapitated heads, chopped fingers, and spurting blood so plentiful that in some scenes it sprays the camera lens – just one of the few homages to Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead movies (the giveaway is the arm-machine-gun attachment, which in 2008 generates comparisons to Rodriguez’ Planet Terror, but when I see souped-up ass-kicker Ami dispatch multiple assholes in gory fashion, it seems to me like she’s a reincarnation of Bruce Campbell’s Ash). And like Ash, who was a mild mannered S-Mart employee turned reluctant hero, so too, is Ami: originally non-violent, shunned by her community for crimes her parents didn’t commit, wrongfully called a murderer, and having her brother Yu (Ryōsuke Kawamura) killed by Sho’s gang, she is finally driven to ironically fulfill the role assigned to her.
Oh my God! They’ve killed Kenny! You Bastards!
Later on, when physically tortured by Sho’s family, which includes the completely insane dragon lady mom (Honoka – another AV actress hottie who would be at home in a Tarantino flick), Ami begins her physical transformation into monster/instrument of revenge. But by that time, her psyche has already started the journey. Speaking of Tarantino, comparisons between Ami and Uma Thurman’s bride from the Kill Bill movies is not off the mark. Even the beginning title sequence seems ripped from Tarantino, who of course gets his inspiration from 70s grindhouse cinema. So it’s the east stealing from the west stealing from the east, and around and around we go!
Let’s be honest here – this movie isn’t for the kids. While it’s true that the film is done up like a live action anime (the music sounds like it comes straight out of Dragon Ball Z; the camera likes to pan right to left over a character’s face, just like in anime), and much of the gore is delivered over the top with humorous intent (think Riki-Oh, or maybe early Peter Jackson splatter like Bad Taste and Dead Alive), it’s still pretty harsh stuff. Ami spraying blood from a headless victim into the face of the victim’s dad may be funny for the sheer balls of it, but seriously, damn. What about the poor chef forced to eat sushi made from his own fingers or the mother and son who have the tops of their heads sliced off and exchanged? I think you get the idea.
Not bad, but needs more soy and wasabi
Then again, bubbling up through all the pools of blood is this concept of that blood’s capacity to bond a family together. Whether someone is good or evil, they always have parents who love them, right? The strong ties between Ami and her brother, Sho and his parents, Takeshi and his parents Suguru and Miki, take center stage. For example, the ninja squad sent to kill Ami and Miki (Japanese model Asami – also hot) are, of course, slaughtered in gory fashion. The grieving parents are then recruited into the “Super Mourner Gang” to get revenge. (They all wear pictures of their slain sons on their chest, while occasionally shouting out their kids names). Iguchi is interested in exploring themes of revenge begetting revenge, and of blood feuds, and of the bonds between parents and children. That is, when he’s not aiming geysers of blood at us.
The performances, especially from the female leads, are energetic which matches director Iguchi’s hyper kinetic visual style of filming. It’s Honoka’s evil babe Mamma Hattori that steals the show, however – her character is completely off the deep end – I mean, her weapon of choice is a drill bra. That’s right, a drill bra.
Comes from the Victoria’s Secret in Akihabara
The Machine Girl is surreal, gory, offensive, funny, outrageous, twisted, and absolutely, positively Japanese.
- Bill Gordon