The Machine Girl (2008)

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Sometimes you just have to love Japanese cinema. While grindhouse films have been almost deified here in the States; only looked back upon with reverence and homage, in Japan grindhouse is still a viable market. In fact, I’d posit that the genre might actually be bigger over there now that the internet has erased all barriers. While their excursions used to be overly dark (think Entrails of a Virgin), now they’re undeniably more light-hearted and fetish-friendly (think of otherwise unremarkable I Dismember Mama for an example of tone, if not content). Which brings us to tonight’s offering, Noboru Iguchi’s the Machine Girl; which takes the schoolgirl obsession of Attack Girls’ Swim Team Vs the Undead and couples it with Planet Terror’s take on self-defense.

the Machine Girl - Looking Up the Barrel of a Gun

This is one of those stories that is light on plot, and heavy on effects. The kind that people make drinking games for – “everyone take a shot whenever something silly happens!” And everyone ends up wasted by the time the credits roll.

It lives and dies by its action sequence; as any exploitation film should. It centers around the Machine Girl, Ami Hyuga (Minase Yashiro), who’s on a quest of revenge against the town’s yakuza faction. The yakuza kill her brother, Yu (Ryosuke Kawamura), over gambling debts, so she comes after them. With a mini-gun for an arm.

the Machine Girl - Reverse Up-Skirt Shot

With a story this flimsy, it falls upon writer/director Noboru Iguchi’s and special effects supervisor Yoshihiro Nishimura to carry it. Which they do remarkably well. The fight sequences are staged perfectly; at once both goofy as well as abundantly gory. Let’s just say you’ll be looking down the barrels of Ami’s mini-gun quite often. Gore not your thing? Well, there’s also tons of ground-level camera shots to provide copious amounts of up-skirt shots.

Sometimes the effects are subpar, almost on a GWAR level of believability; though this only adds to film. You won’t be put off by how silly the decapitated heads look, you’ll instead be amazed at how well the other shots manage to work.

Low budget with a clearly defined mission.

the Machine Girl - Finger Sushi

A sloppy chef is forced to eat sushi made from his own fingers! What’s not to love?

Lacking a big budget seems to have helped Iguchi focus on the small details. Details such as when Ami visits Yu’s best friend’s parents, who already have a little shrine set up to their murdered son. Small details like that that you won’t notice the first time through, but which help bind this small world together.

the Machine Girl - Junior High Shuriken Gang

Also, as both Yu and Takeshi were still in school, all Ami’s enemies are also school-themed. One fight sequence centering around the “Junior High Shuriken Gang.” And when the Shuriken Gang are blown to pieces, their parents are, in turn, recruited by the yakuza to avenge them.

Some would say that this motif on the cycler nature of violence is meant more for laughs than for discussion, but, either way, it exists in the film. And, given how shallow both the story and its characters are, it would be difficult to toss out its one nod towards analysis on the basis that it’s not deep enough. You deal with what you’re presented with.

the Machine Girl - Best Friend's Execution

Which can become a problem, as it does here, when you’re then presented with too much. Now I’ve long felt that “modern” movies (anything past the ’50s) are far too long, and the Machine Girl is a prime example. At 90 minutes it drags in the middle, especially when Ami is waiting for her mini-gun replacement arm to be built. What filmmakers tend to forget is that while Ami is waiting, we’re all waiting too. And we don’t get the payoff she does from being able to blast holes through walls. We have to then live vicariously through her.

Lose 30 of those intervening minutes, and you’d have a nice, tight little story with no lags or spots where the (already iffy) story gets stretched too thin.

A problem which doesn’t scuttle the Machine Girl outright, but does force it to wear out its welcome earlier than it should. Making the film rather unmemorable; floated only by a few fantastic fight sequences. Taking it down a couple of notches in the grindhouse/exploitation hierarchy; ultimately becoming more like the aforementioned I Dismember Mama than say a classic like Cannibal Ferox.

the Machine Girl - Fountains of Blood

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