The Machine Girl (Kataude mashin gâru, Japan, 2008)
Noboru Iguchi’s Machine Girl is not a great film, in fact its not even very good. Ultimately the film’s strength is that it knows this and doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is. And what it is, is a trashy gore filled romp.
Ami Hyūga is an average college girl, whose world life is forever changed when her brother is killed by the son of a powerful Yakuza boss. Ami tries to take revenge for the loss of her brother but ends up out classed and outnumbered by the powerful criminal’s thugs, and losing an arm in the process. She is rehabilitated a mad mechanic: a few trips to his garage later and she emerges with a back pack of weaponry custom designed to take advantage of her new disability. The center piece of course is a multi-barreled gattling gun that attaches to her healing stump. Now armed with her new arsenal and her chainsaw wielding neighbor, she sets out to finish what she started.
Machine Girl is not a realistic film, and never pretends to be. The plot is outlandish, and the action pieces push credibility to and past the breaking point. Imagine if you will a power rangers episode that included exploding heads, death by tempura, projectile intestines, and cannibalistic sushi, all ramped up on cheap truck stop speed and you have an approximation of Machine Gun girl’s aesthetic.
What makes all this silliness work is the gleeful and frenetic pace that Iguchi keeps the film moving at. The film works best when the action is moving so fast and the insane ideas and visuals are bombarding the screen faster than you can process it. Which is to say that the film suffers when it slows down in the expositionary scenes. The middle of the film drags a little as you learn back-story about Ami and her new allies, but picks up again as she begins training to get back into fighting shape.
New comer Minase Yashiro is charming and sweet as Ami, and is convincing in both school girl and Terminator modes. The rest of the cast is sufficient if over the top. Strangely the action sequences are uneven, but the awkward moments are excusable because the good ones are insanely inventive and thrilling. The cinematography and sound design is competent with out distinguishing itself as special. That being said there is a moment near the end of the film that achieves a true visual poetry. In another film it would even be poignant.
The DVD has a pretty standard making-of documentary and trailers for other films. But nothing fantastic.
The end result is that Machine Girl is pretty much review proof. You already know if you want to see it or not. For my part – I wouldn’t mind seeing it again and laughing my demented head off at the parade of grotesqueries.