The Machine Girl directed by Noboru Iguchi
I am very pleased to report that Japanese special FX master (and occasional director) Yoshihiro Nishimura is now a very solid 3 for 3 with me. In 2001’s Suicide Club, Nishimura’s splattering gore FX gave this ultimately bewildering story just the visceral shocks needed to put it over. In 2008’s Tokyo Gore Police, which saw Nishimura also taking the reins of director, his gore FX entered the realm of high art, with many characters transformed into gushing, human blood geysers and sanguinary fountains. (These gushing blood FX, perhaps inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s shocking finale of 1962’s Sanjuro, could conceivably be deserving of some sort of Japanese patent or copyright!) And now … 2008’s The Machine Girl, which, if not quite as bloody as Tokyo Gore Police (but what film IS?!?!), incorporates the FX more cleverly, and into a more endearing story line, as well. Personally, I loved it!
In the film, the viewer meets a pretty high school girl named Ami, winningly portrayed by Minase Yashiro. An orphan for some years, Ami lives with her younger brother, Yu, with whom she is very close. “Violence doesn’t solve anything … it only hurts people,” Ami tells Yu early on, but her attitude quickly changes when Yu and his buddy are killed by the gang of Sho (hissingly well-played by young Nobuhiro Nishihara), the odious son of the local Kimura yakuza leader. Quickly going into vengeance mode, Ami handily disposes of her first two victims, after which she laughingly runs down the street, proclaiming “I’m a demon! I turned into a demon! I’ll remain a demon until I kill every last one of Yu’s enemies!” But more trouble looms, as the yakuzas capture poor Ami and, in a grisly sequence, chop off her fingers and then her entire left arm! Fortunately, the local mechanic and his wife — the parents of Yu’s late friend — take pity on the mutilated girl, and construct a nice prosthesis for her new stump … a prosthesis that just happens to be one seriously heavy-duty machine gun!
Perhaps inspired by the Planet Terror segment of Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse (2007), in which Rose McGowan’s Cherry Darling character loses her right leg and is fitted with a high-powered machine gun prosthesis, The Machine Girl tells a simple story of vengeance, but one that is exceptionally well done. In the lead, Minase is absolutely adorable in her white blouse and pleated skirt, and could easily pass as one of those 54 innocent-looking schoolgirls who leap onto the tracks in Suicide Club. But just watch her lip curl into a snarl as she fires off her “arm” or chastises her foes! It is a wonderful performance from Ms. Yashiro, who is certainly required to do more physical stunt work and give five times as many line readings as the kick-ass character portrayed by Eihi Shiina in Tokyo Gore Police; hard to believe that this was Minase’s first role as an actress!
But then again, ALL the players here are just terrific, and the colorful characters that they portray should linger long in the memory. Special kudos to Asami, who plays the supertough Miki (the mechanic’s wife); to Kentaro Shimazu, who plays the yakuza boss; and especially to (another single-name actress) Honoka, who plays his even nastier wife, as lethal and sadistic a Dragon Lady beeyotch as has ever been shown on screen. And of course, kudos to writer and director Noboru Iguchi, for his colorful story and incredibly stylish and dynamic helming of the film. I have become an instant fan of his, and not just because the man shares my birthday (June 28th, if you care to send gifts); I look forward now to someday seeing some of his other nonporno fare, such as RoboGeisha, Mutant Girls Squad, Zombie Ass and Dead Sushi (you’ve gotta love those titles!).
But let’s get down to the meat of the matter. Putting aside all questions of story line, acting, fashion and style, “howzabout those shock FX?,” all you gorehounds must be asking. Well, as in Tokyo Gore Police, the carnage on screen is so UNrealistic and over the top that any queasiness that might otherwise be engendered is somehow averted. But boy, is that carnage ever up there! Thus, the audience is treated to the awesome spectacle of one punk getting his face machine-gun blasted away, bit by bit (a truly staggering effect); hands cut off; Ami getting her arm tempura’ed in boiling oil (played for laffs, strangely enough); a bloody head in a pot of miso soup; a knife blade going into the back of a woman’s skull and out of her mouth; a bloody dousing using a decapitated torso; finger sushi (don’t ask!); another woman getting a knife through the top of her noggin, only to be then raped by two yakuza henchmen (surely, the film’s sickest moment); a foot-wide, see-through hole in the torso of a machine-gun blasted ninja; those razor-sharp throwing stars (shuriken, I believe they’re called) slicing a man to pieces; nail-in-the-face torture; chainsawings; a mace with a steel trap, aka a “flying guillotine”; and, most incredibly, a metal bra with twin power drills attached (possibly inspired by Ursula Andress’ bullet-spitting bra in 1965’s cult classic The Tenth Victim, and possibly the inspiration for Sofia Vergara’s machine gun brassiere in Robert Rodriguez’ recent Machete Kills).
As you can see, truly, one wild and crazy entertainment package, but in all, quite winning and ingratiating, and perfect fodder for a possible sequel. Personally, I would love to see Chloe Grace Moretz’ Hit-Girl character from Kick-Ass take a trip to Japan and team up for some serious butt kicking with Ami, but I suppose we ALL have our little fantasies, right?