With its female vengeance theme, outrageously campy story, and blood drenched violence, Iguchi Noboru's Kataude Machine Girl (a.k.a. Machine Girl) shares a lot in common with Quentin Tarantino's magnificently over-the-top Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2. Yet the unique twist that Iguchi adds are elements of Paul Verhoeven's Robocop and Sam Raimi's Evil Dead series, creating a wacky revenge, horror, sci-fi hybrid that seems like an adult version of a kid's Tokusatsu (Live Action Adventure) show.
Not surprisingly, the film was produced jointly by Asian video distribution house Tokyo Shock/Media Blasters (whose specialty is V-Cinema and Ero-Guro films), B-Movie art-house Fever Dreams (Death Trance, Flesh For The Beast) and legendary Nikkatsu studios (whose 70s Roman Porno films are infamous) - and their influence in Machine Girl is very much present. Yet the film seems less like a Japanese sexploitation cheapie and more like a throwback to 70s style "Pinky Violence" and 80s ultraviolent splatter horror - a film so unapologetic in its visual bloodshed and graphic horror that it seems destined to be a cult classic among horror fans and film geeks.
Gravure idol and model Yashiro Minase plays high school athlete Hyuga Ami, a tough and spunky girl who is taking care of her younger brother Yu (Kawamura Ryosuke) after their parents committed suicide amid rumors and false allegations of murder.
Ami's seeming carefree life is suddenly turned asunder when Yu is callously tormented and killed by local high school punks led by the pompous Kimura Sho, the son of a Yakuza gang lord (Shimazu Kentaro) whose lineage is said to trace back to the famed Ninja clan of Hattori Hanzou (the subject of numerous films, e.g. Kage No Gundan). Yu's classmate Sugihara Takashi is also killed by the same gang.
Insane with revenge, Ami confronts the parents of one of the gang members responsible for Yu's death, as the Police have ruled the incident a suicide. Yet the parents are every bit as malicious and evil as their spawn and Ami is nearly killed by them (she gets her arm "fried" in Tempura batter during her visit with them).
Ami returns to the house and forces a confession from the gang member and after a murderous rampage, she kills both the gang member and his mother, leaving the father horribly scarred with hot oil.
Ami then decides to go after ringleader Sho. Yet despite her best efforts, she is captured and mercilessly tortured by the Kimura clan, which includes Sho's dragon-lady-like, mother-from-hell (Honoka). They even go so far as to amputate Ami's left arm. Incredibly, Ami survives and escapes to the only safe place, Sugihara Takashi's parents auto-shop. Former bousouzouku (biker gang) lovers Suguru (Ishikawa Yuya) and Miki (Asami) tend to Ami's injuries and nurse her back to health. When Ami tells them that the Kimura clan was responsible for their son's torment and death, they agree to help Ami get revenge. Suguru designs a Gatling gun arm attachment for Ami while Miki trains the girl in street-fighting combat. Equipped with her "machine arm", Ami
now seeks her revenge against Sho, but she must also face some mechanically and spirtually-augmented "demon warriors" bent on her destruction.
With its wacky and twisted story, silly dialog, bizarre costuming and insane violence, Machine Girl generates comparisons to the works of Sam Raimi particularly Darkman and Evil Dead. Iguchi also seems to be emulating the style of Miike Takashi and successfully matches some of the visual mayhem and creative invention that Miike has shown in past films like Ichi the Killer.
I was impressed with Nishimura Yoshihiro and Kazuno Tsuyoshi's decision - whether it was by design or budget necessity - to use a lot of "old school" techniques to achieve the outrageous gore sequences in the film. While not on the level of Tom Savini or Rick Baker or Tani "Screaming Mad George" Joji, their work here is impressive especially when an over-reliance on CGI and green screen is common. The film almost takes on a mad cartoon-like surrealism (e.g., Tom & Jerry or more appropriately Itchy and Scratchy from The Simpsons).
Yashiro makes for an attractive heroine and she brings charisma and charm to her role as Ami. In this age of young MILFs, I guess model Asami's character may not be all that unbelievable but she does seem a tad too beautiful, a bit too cool and somewhat too young to be the mother of a junior high school teen. Yet, despite this Asami does make for a tough partner to Ami's Machine Girl. Honokai is also screen eye-candy as Kimura Sho's Lady Macbeth-like mother. She is seductively evil in the role and her camp performance is topped by her crowd-pleasing revelation of her "drill brassier". Her campy villainy is a grand performance and fun to watch.
Shimazu Kentaro is also convincingly menacing in his performance as Yakuza boss Kimura. With his "Heihachi/Tekken" style hairstyle and "Flying Guilotine" weapon of choice, he makes for another interesting villain, albeit not an original one.
With its references to Yakuza, Ninja, Sailor Uniforms and Sentai/Tokusatsu Hero, Machine Girl seems to be tailor made for overseas Otaku fanboys who live and breathe anime and J-Cinema, but this also limits its appeal to more mainstream audiences who may notreally care for all the pop culture elements and gore effects.
Like recent films Shoot 'Em Up" and Crank, Machine Girl is not for the overly serious and is suited for viewers who don't mind suspending belief and logic for an hour and a half of pure dark entertainment. I definitely look forward to the creative team's next project Tokyo Gore Police, which looks even more outrageous. (JMaruyama 2008)