The Machine Girl
“Violence doesn’t solve anything,” says heroine Ami (Minase Yashiro) near the start of the cartoonishly gory The Machine Girl. This, of course, comes after we’ve seen her in a flash-forward decimating a quartet of bullies with a machine gun attached to the stump of her left arm. Violence may not solve anything, but it sure as hell clears the brush.
A low-level Internet sensation among hardcore Asian-trash geeks due to its way-over-the-top YouTube trailer, The Machine Girl disappoints only insofar as it delivers exactly what it promises — no more, no less (the disappointment comes with the “no more”). It’s knowingly junky revengesploitation that could be paired with Doomsday for Grindhouse 2. The plot involves Ami’s brother and his dorky friend running afoul of the teenage scion of a Yakuza clan (fans of Kill Bill will recognize the clan’s name, solidifying the idea that this is really a Japanese flick intended for American fans of the Japanese flicks that influenced Tarantino — it got a brief run in New York and is now debuting on American DVD months before it even sees a Japanese release). After Ami goes to avenge her brother and gets her arm hacked off, she retreats to the garage run by her brother’s pal’s grieving parents, and they present her with the means to reduce her foes to chunks and mist.
Writer-director Noboru Iguchi treats the story as an excuse for exuberant splatterific hijinks — some achieved digitally, some (hilariously obviously) not. Despite some feints towards the aforementioned anti-violence message when the parents of Ami’s ninja victims rise up and spout the same enraged rhetoric she does, The Machine Girl can’t possibly be taken seriously, nor does it really want to be. The Yakuza leader’s hair is greased into curly little devil horns; his wife, who’s even more vicious than he is, forces a clumsy cook to snack on sushi garnished with his own fingers. Iguchi splits people into halves or thirds; he gives us ninjas in red track suits and a scene in which a woman stabbed through the back of the head spews blood, then bile, then her own intestines (a nod to Lucio Fulci, maybe).
Though bored at times by the repetitive artlessness of the gore — there’s a way to do this stuff with finesse; start with the Lone Wolf and Cub series — I was entertained by the movie’s sheer heedless hunger for the junk it’s chewing up and spitting out. At times it’s like an entire Japanese-schlock marathon compressed into 97 minutes. The version I caught was English-dubbed, so I can’t comment much on the acting, though Minase Yashiro makes a fierce and formidable icon of adorably petite bloodletting. She could anchor a Machine Girl franchise, and probably will.
Essentially, what we’ve got here is Takashi Miike by way of Robert Rodriguez, with all the problems and thrills that entails. For the likeminded, it’s a bottomless (if anti-nutritious) bag of Twizzlers; others should approach with caution.action/adventure, comedy, cult, foreign