Machine Girl, The (UK - BD RB)
Our Leigh Riding reviews Cine Asia's splatter-tastic shlock horror on Blu-ray
Ami (Minase Yashiro), is a promising young Japanese student who balances school work with attempting to keep her wayward brother on the straight and narrow. It’s not an easy job; the siblings were orphaned years ago, and her brother seems intent upon creating as much trouble as possible. Her brother ends up owing a hefty debt to the local Ninja-Yakuza clan, who intend to collect by any means necessary. In a violent altercation, her brother and his best friend are killed by the clan, and after attempting to seek revenge, Ami is captured by the clan. Ami is tortured and has her arm hacked off. She escapes, and stumbles into a machine shop, where the owners build her a machine gun arm which she uses to wreak bloody vengeance upon the culprits.
Very occasionally there comes a time when a movie reviewer has to leave any sense of critique or pontificating of subject matter to one side and settles with summing up an entire review with one simple word: bonkers. Naturally, Machine Girl is one such film. It’s technically a shambles, apparently shot on a budget of ten yen, and only really serves as an excuse to display overly stylised excessive gore and increasingly skimpily dressed Japanese schoolgirls. Yet there is undeniable energy and verve to the piece that demands to be experienced (rather than actually enjoyed) by those that, you know, dig this kind of thing.
For once the packaging is not a lie; this really is a mix between Japsploitation (is that even a word?) output such as the notorious Tokyo Gore Police—a film I absolutely despised—and the Rodriguez/Tarantino pastiche of Planet Terror and From Dusk Till Dawn, with a little tip of the hat to early Sam Raimi as well. It’s fairly obvious that this has been made with an eye towards the American market, with that oh-so- Grindhouse opening credits sequence, and it does work to an extent.
We all know why we’re here, so let’s get it out of the way; what’s the gore like? There are certainly some inventive set pieces in there, such as a man’s face being peeled off by bullets and the now infamous ’drill bra’ scene, and the plasma shoots from limbs as if sprayed from a fire hose. There is plenty for gorehounds to get potentially get excited about, but while the execution of the SFX stands up to scrutiny, the technical aspects are rather poor. Rather than aim for realism, the filmmakers settle for a fairly crude approximation of, to my mind, the Screaming Mad George style of FX as opposed to the KNB output, and while the effects team deliver on the red stuff, the character models are really quite shoddy. Luckily these models are cut around quickly, so all is not lost.
Technically, the film simply doesn’t have the budget to realise its ambition. Everything appears to have been shot on shaky DV, and the production has a general look of a DTV quickie. As previously noted, judicious editing saves the poor practical effects, but any CGI enhancements look appallingly basic and cheap, ranging from shoddily implemented muzzle flashes right through to one of the worst ‘hole in the torso’ effects I’ve ever seen. The only thing cheaper than the FX must have been the actor’s salaries; there’re some drama school level performances on show here, but in an odd way it adds to the intended tone of the film.
It’s safe to say that Machine Girl is a mongrel of a film. It feels like what it is; a tribute to a tribute of the shlock exploitation movies that only Robert Rodriguez really has been able to pull off with any success. If one is looking for some undemanding Western influenced Eastern carnage, this fills the gap perfectly fine despite wildly fluctuating production values. However, if one wishes to dig a little deeper, I’d personally search out the far better executed and twice as bonkers samurai zombie mayhem of Versus instead.
Machine Girl sports a 1.78:1 image, and unfortunately I’m not terribly impressed. It’s a noisy transfer, with more grain that one might expect from hi def. Although it’s a colourful transfer with decent black levels, the subpar CGI sticks out like a sore thumb. While there’s nothing dreadfully wrong with the transfer technically, it’s just so lifeless, uninspiring and flat, that I’d suggest people might want to plump for the standard def version, which I’ve actually seen and benefits from a simpler, softer image greatly.
Once again, Cine Asia head straight for the purists and omit the ever sacrilegious English dub and plumps for the original Japanese track in both 5.1 Dolby Digital and 2.0 Surround. The audio fares better than the image, with decent placing of dialogue within the 5.1 track. Aside from occasional on-set audio flubs which needed some serious post-production ADR, in general it’s a lively track, with action sequences rattling around the surrounds slickly. The retro score doesn’t swamp the rest of the elements, and the full-on squelch of the gore scenes and outrageous gushing arterial sprays sit well with the action elements. For those that care (and for the three people who actually use them), the 2.0 track is functional, if a little too busy and muddy.
Aside from the usual assortment of Cine Asia trailers, the disc comes with a solitary extra; a fairly brief Making of that talks to the cast and crew, and also takes a look at the practical FX on set. It’s not exactly comprehensive, but it’s better than a slap around the face.
Machine Girl does exactly what it says on the tin; it’s an exuberant, knowing paean to films such as Planet Terror that, despite its limited production values, has energy and imagination to spare. It’s not really my cup of tea to be honest, but to be fair I can see that it delivers the enough of the goods to please those of you that like this kind of thing. Feel free to give it a look if you’re into the genre, but as I said before, I’d suggest the superior Versus as an alternative.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Leigh Riding
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 18th June 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Japanese, Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Japanese
Extras: Making of, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Noboru Iguchi
Cast: Minase Yashiro, Asami, Kentaro Shimazu
Length: 93 minutes
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