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LOSTATSEA.NET > FEATURES >

June 30, 2008
RATING: 8/10
Certain word combinations send my nerd heart into anticipatory palpitations. My chest begins pounding and my blood pressure rises when a film is described with phrases such as: ninja attack; arterial spray; hot lesbian action; gun arm; zombie outbreak. Any flick containing more than one of such glorious elements becomes required viewing. One of Japan's most recent manga-to-film exports, The Machine Girl, contains so many cinematic clichés, presented in such a satisfyingly geeky way, that watching it nearly sent me into cardiac arrest. The film's insanely bloody, frenetically paced story of a beautiful Japanese schoolgirl out to avenge her brother's death is so referential to so many cult cinema classics that, over the course of 90 minutes, it salutes The Evil Dead series, Takashi Miike's Ichi The Killer, Rocky, The Running Man, and the wire-fu of Tsui Hark and Japan's indie cyber-punk classic Tetsuo: The Iron Man, just to name a few. It also tells a fresh and entertaining revenge tale, one that doesn't let up until the last eyeball is gouged and the last round has exited the chamber.



One thing that becomes apparent within The Machine Girl's first few grisly meat-chunk minutes is that the film does not take itself very seriously. The shocking red hue of the blood spraying forth by the gallons, the leaping heroine who slashes her enemies with a sickle (landing in cool anime poses), and the ridiculously over-dramatized dialog all work to create a brilliant air of absurdity. As it progresses the film benefits from this lightness because it also never fails to tread into taboo territory; when a mob boss orders his henchmen to participate in a little necrophilia, it is actually a laugh-out-loud moment.

The story's titular character, Asami (aka "The Machine Girl"), begins the film as an ordinary Japanese teen, replete with the traditional schoolgirl uniform of white shirt and blue skirt. She is shown to be athletic and a good student who, unlike her deceitful younger brother, avoids trouble. When her troubled brother is brutally murdered by a gang of school bullies, Asami seeks revenge by slaughtering those responsible - she is a natural fighter and her her lethal abilities are fueled by her rage. She slices her way through the bullies, blood spraying everywhere, and eventually stalks the gang's leader - who also happens to be the son of a local Yakuza mob boss. Through several flashback sequences it is revealed that the Yakuza boss and his wife are vicious overlords, with a penchant for killing their servants, who torture for pleasure and have groomed their son for succession.



When Asami is captured during a failed attempt to kill the boy, the Yakuza boss chops off her arm. Narrowly escaping with her life, the heroine takes refuge with a couple at an auto garage, also victims of the mob, who nurse her back to health. Sympathetic to her plight, they also train the girl and aid her in her quest for vengeance. To replace her severed limb, they build a massive, multi-barreled arm cannon and a chainsaw - both of which lock in place over her amputated nub. The rest of the film is a bloody showdown between Asami and the Yakuza family, including one of the best ninja attack sequences of the last decade. There is an indescribable pleasure in watching ninjas clad in red tracksuits deal out throwing stars like playing cards, fighting against a woman with a gun for an arm.



As amusing as it is, The Machine Girl is also immensely gory. Limbs are ripped off, heads are impaled, and blood flows freely. It is not a film for the squeamish. There is also the film's ever-present Japanese nihilism to consider, which often makes Western audiences very uncomfortable - the cavalier way that rape and torture are treated in Japanese cinema can be very disturbing. With those points made though, fans of The Evil Dead trilogy, the films of John Woo and Japanese anime will all find something to like in this story about a girl, her gun arm, and her gruesome killing spree.

TRAILER: www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSpCWJnnWVI

SEE ALSO: www.machinegirl.net

--
Jon Burke
A contributing writer and a Chicago resident who will not be goaded by LAS’s editor into revealing any more details about his potentially sordid affairs.

See other articles by Jon Burke.

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