The Machine Girl
(Kataude mashin garu) (2008)
Directed by Noboru Iguchi

Artistic Value: * * * ½
Entertainment Value: * * * * ½

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Some time after their parents committed suicide as a result of having been falsely accused of murder, a teenaged sister and brother, Ami (Minase Yashiro) and Yu (Ryosuke Kawamura) Hyuga, are attending high school and attempting to lead normal lives. Unfortunately, Yu and his friend Takashi are being bullied by Sho Kimura (Nobuhiro Nishihara), the son of a vicious yakuza boss, and his gang of thugs. Eventually, Sho murders both Yu and Takashi for failing to pay him protection money, which inspires Ami to try to get revenge. Though she does manage to invade the Kimuras' home and kill some of their men, she is captured and tortured by Sho's father, Ryuji (Kentaro Shimazu), and his mother, Violet (Honoka), who amputate her left arm. Ami, in spite of her severely weakened state, escapes and makes it to the home of Takashi's parents, who treat her injuries. Once Ami has recovered, Takashi's mother, Miki (Asami), trains her to fight. Ami's hiding place is, however, discovered by the Kimuras, who send a band of ninjas to kill her. During her and Miki's battle with these foes, Ami is presented with a gigantic machine gun that was made by Miki's husband and that can be fitted to her stump. Having used this to dispose of her attackers, Ami, together with Miki, sets out to avenge her beloved brother's death.

Noboru Iguchi's The Machine Girl is hardly a great film. In fact, it is often visually pedestrian, inconsistent, and derivative. That said, it is also so wildly overdone, so absurdly violent, and so fast paced that it is genuinely fun to watch.


The Machine Girl is absolutely packed with gleefully outrageous action sequences, almost every one of which includes elements that would be utterly horrific were they not both so excessive and so unrealistically done that watching them is actually like watching violent scenes from a children's cartoon, although, admittedly, the movie is a great deal more grisly than are most programs made for younger viewers. Over the course of The Machine Girl, the viewer is presented with sequences in which the heroine's entire forearm is basted and deep fried (though she is perfectly healed, without a single scar, by the next scene), she uses her machine gun to fire bullets at an opponent so rapidly that she strips the flesh from his bone, leaving only a bloody skeleton, a chef is forced to amputate his own fingers and eat them as though they were sushi, Ami and Miki drive multiple nails into the face of a captured yakuza, Miki wields a chainsaw against her foes (with predictable results), and Ami holds the decapitated corpse of one of the bullies who killed her brother under her arm and uses it like a water gun to spray the boy's father with blood. Besides such outrageous acts of savagery, there are also countless mutilations, decapitations, and the like. Although these acts can be fairly nasty, their cartoonishness is, I should repeat, usually emphasized. For instance, while villains do die when the protagonist injures them (though it often takes them a while to do so), when they inflict damage upon her, she, like some animated character, is never down for long. Except for the amputation of her arm, she seems to heal herself completely almost as soon as she is wounded. Not only is her forearm deep fried without causing her any long-term harm, as I already mentioned, but, later, after Violet uses a bra equipped with whirling metal drills to pulverize the girl's chest, she seems to have fully recovered from the injury within a few minutes. Perhaps, like a newt that might regrow a severed tail, she is able to regrow her breasts after they have been grated into ground meat.


Happily, the film's action sequences are complemented by the actors' performances. This is not to say that their performances are skilled, however, just that they are memorable. Minase Yashiro is so pretty, vivacious, and charming as Ami that she is genuinely likeable. She may spend most of the movie as a killing machine, but she does begin it as a cheery, spunky teenaged girl. What is more, dressed in her sailor suit school uniform, she always remains very cute to look at. Though Asami is tougher as Miki than the lead is in her role, she is, nonetheless, just as sexy and appealing. The villains, likewise, are nicely realized. Kentaro Shimazu's performance as a nearly demonic gangster (complete with a coiffure that seems to give him horns) is outrageously exaggerated, and Honoko's sadistic Violet is equally fun. The pair, and their son, are some of the nastiest cinematic fiends I have encountered for some while. All the leads add to the film's appeal, even though I cannot really say that they are skilled thespians in any conventional sense. Similarly, the supporting players, almost without exception, overact with zeal. Of course, their roles do demand such an approach. After all, they play track suit wearing ninjas, thuggish yakuza who are eager to have sex with a dead teenaged girl (she had been a virgin, after all), and the goofily armored but maniacally angry parents of some of the persons Ami has killed.


As much as I enjoyed the film's excesses, I must admit that it does have a number of faults. The worst of these is the director's willingness to borrow from others. On more than one occasion, Iguchi lifts images and events from Takashi Miike (both the frying of Ami's hand and Miki's chopping a person in half from the crown of his head to his groin look like incidents from two of Miike's works). Even the eponymous heroine's prosthesis seems to have been inspired by the machine gun leg of Rose McGowan's character in Planet Terror.


Whatever the movie's shortcomings, The Machine Girl is a hoot. It might not be especially original, but it is a lot of fun.


Review by Keith Allen

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