Here is a film that I am quite surprised I haven’t watched before. Whilst no fan of these Japanese Gore fests, I have heard fairly good things about this film. And when it turned up on iTunes as a 99p rental? Well it just seemed a total shame not to at least have a punt on it. Also, I do like to show I do watch films at the B-Movie end of the cinema spectrum sometimes!
“The Machine Girl” follows orphans Ami (Minase Yashiro) and her brother Yu (Ryôsuke Kawamura). Their parents apparently committed suicide after being accused of some murder (don’t worry, like much in this movie, it has no real plot relevance), and Ami has stepped up to look after her little brother. Unfortunately Yu is being bullied by a gang led by the son a local Yakuza boss, and is eventually murdered by them, along with his best friend. Ami being quite a capable sort, goes on the hunt for revenge. Her hunt for clues leads first to the family of one of the bullies, which ends up rather badly for all concerned, but does lead Ami to the home of the leader. Problem is, Ami is not THAT capable, and is captured and tortured, leading to her arm being lopped off. She manages to escape, and is helped to recover, albeit grudgingly, by Miki (Asami) and her husband (who are the parents of the other boy who was killed). After some bonding, the group vow to work on the revenge together, and supply Ami with a huge machine gun to replace her amputated arm. Blood will flow, bullets will fly, but will Ami get the revenge she so desires?
For an exploitative B-Movie, this one was a huge amount of fun. The general story made perfect sense (if you ignore some of the more surreal elements), and it remained pretty much focussed on the bloody revenge. Sure, the acting is of a lesser standard, but Manase Yashiro certainly gives us a determined and dangerous heroine, and manages to be rather cute to boot! It also sticks pretty much to outrageous gore than anything sexually exploitative (even with Japanese Porn Star Asami in a major role), with only one moment that is of serious concern.
And boy, the gore! Limbs get lost, blood gushed like over excited geysers, heads are shot to pieces, that is when they are not being decapitated. Usually this is not my cup of tea, but it is done in such an over the top way, and on such a low budget, that it didn’t offend. Think of a crazy Manga by the way of “Evil Dead” and you will get the idea. The effects are fun rather than professional, and you have to watch the film fully understanding the constraints it was made under – yes the Machine gun is wobbly and latex burns slip off faces when they are washed with blood, but for me this was just part of the charm.
There is plenty of imagination on display too, which I suppose is obvious from the central conceit itself. So if a schoolgirl with a prosthetic machine gun sounds like an idea you will dig? Then get ready for High School Ninja Squads, Bras with flesh grinding Drill Bits, housewives who deal with problems like Ami by frying them with Tempura batter, and Criminals with fairly messed up ideas of honour (they don’t mind killing and necrophilcally raping one poor girl, but heaven forbid they kill Ami the first chance they get).
Like I say, this is all done on a fairly low budget, but the availability of low cost digital film making equipment may not provide the polish of a blockbuster, but it does give the film a certain look, that is passable, and adds to the film’s charms.
It is hard to criticise the movie once you accept it for the limitations it has been made within, so the only thing that really bugged me was attempting to reconcile just where the opening sequence takes place in context with the rest of the movie. I suppose it doesn’t really matter, it is simply butting the core idea of the movie up there front and centre – otherwise the real action of the film would have been dreadfully back loaded.
The film also has no little heart. Ami is driven by a desire to initially protect, and then get revenge for her Brother, and the film makes sure you never forget that – even when she has possibly gone over the edge. It even makes time to build up a relationship between Ami and Miki that ends up being rather touching. I’ll be honest to say I really wasn’t expecting that.
I’m fairly unashamed to say that I really enjoyed this. Would it be the sort of film I could watch every day? Not so much, but for sheer imagination, sticking to the core concept, and simply not taking itself too seriously? Recommended!