FANTASIA: THE MACHINE GIRL Review
The Twitch website (yes, this one) got its highest spike in traffic last year when word got out that we were hosting the trailer for Noboru Iguchi's "Kataude Mashin Gâru" (The Machine Girl). And very much rightly so because it was one of the most outrageous trailers in ages.
And as a good trailer should, it sure whetted the appetite for the main course...
I finally caught up with the movie itself at the Amsterdam Fantastic Film Festival, and it was a definite audience-pleaser. While it didn't dislodge "[°Rec]" from first place it scored a very respectable 8.1 out of ten.
That should answer the question whether or not this movie delivers on the promises made in that yucky trailer: it does.
So what is it about?
Well, it's an exploitation revenge flick of the highest (or rather lowest) order, with gore flying around by the bucket loads.
There Will Be Blood!
Read on after the break...
College girl Ami lives alone with her younger brother Yu after their parents killed themselves from shame over false murder accusations. Vowing never to lose any more loved ones because of violence, Ami and Yu try to settle any argument they encounter in a civil, peaceful way.
Which gets very difficult to do when Yu and his friend Takeshi are targeted by a vicious gang of bullies, led by the son of a Yakuza-clan leader. The gang's indifferent brutality leads to Yu and Takeshi being killed, and when Ami tries to investigate what happened she gets viciously assaulted by the gang members' parents.
Ami snaps, forgoes her peaceful ways and becomes a killing machine out for justice. Killing the Yakuza clan turns out to be quite difficult though, because they are members of the Hattori Hanzo ninja dynasty!
When a fight with these ninjas has Ami losing an arm, she gets nursed back to health by Takeshi's parents who own a garage. Before you can say "A-Team" they make a wicked new arm for Ami: an eight-barreled machine gun. Vengeance is nigh!
To say anticipation for this movie was high amongst us here at Twitch is a bit of an understatement, so with joy I learned that "The Machine Girl" would make a once-off nighttime appearance at the Amsterdam Fantastic Film Festival, only two weeks after its world premiere at the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival! Hence this review.
Now Noboru Iguchi's latest work is not for everyone. His earlier film "Sukeban Boy" already showed that he's not afraid to stretch a concept beyond it's ripping point if it means he can get an extra laugh or a gasp (or both!) out of his audience, and in "The Machine Girl" he goes nuts.
This film falls happily into the "mega-gore" category. Everyone who gets wounded in this film starts spraying gallons of fake blood around, interspersed with some smoke from the pneumatic systems used to propel all these fluids. Knives, chainsaws, katanas, shuriken, a flying guillotine, a drillbra, the aforementioned super machine gun... all feeble excuses to show as many outrageously bloody effects as possible.
All this of course is shown in the film without taking itself the least bit seriously, and the end result is a comedy. Even the tragic deaths of the innocents are played for laughs here, either by their outrageous nature or by the cartoonish evilness of the murderers. When a schoolfriend gets killed by Ami's enemies, the leader of the group tells his underlings to rape the corpse, saying the opportunity to have sex with a college girl doesn't come by every day (upon which command the goons start disrobing enthusiastically).
In bad taste?
But it's so over the top silly that you cannot take it serious, therefore the overall tone remains light as a feather. And seeing these evildoers get their due punishment later on is all the more fun because of it.
Acting is indeterminable in a movie as purposely bad as this one. It tells the story and never are you supposed to expect a realistic reflection on human nature. Hamming things up in this film is not a risk, it's a requirement!
Asami and Honoka, the female leads playing Ami and Takeshi's mother, are incredibly easy on the eyes. Especially since they are always doing fun things like hammering nails through yakuza thugs or sawing them in half while giggling to each other. No matter how cruel or unusual they punish their enemies, you keep rooting for them.
Surprisingly, even with the director of "Sukeban Boy" and a cast pulled largely from pinku and real porn movies the exploitation is all in the violence. Who wants to see some nudity will need to look elsewhere. This film only goes for the slightest bits of titillation, all based around -you guessed it- what happens with a schoolgirl uniform once you start fighting in one.
So is this a masterpiece?
Sadly, no. It sure as hell is fun, but almost all of the choice bits can actually be seen in that glorious trailer. The rest is basically filler, but it could be worse: at least it's not boring filler. Noboru Iguchi is several notches too smart to let his film get stalled by unnecessary exposition or "character development", and what little he has put in is such a caricature that it is still entertaining.
Just not on the level of, say, Peter Jackson's "Braindead" to name a title (and not quite THAT gory either).
But should you have an audience at hand willing to go along with the joke, just like I experienced last weekend in Amsterdam, few films will be more fun to watch than this one.
Highly recommended, provided you can get into the mindset necessary!