Flying guillotines, driller bras, deadly shurikens, strapped-on machine gun and chainsaw, plus blood, lots and lots of blood. Noburu Iguchi's Machine Girl is filled with over-the-top violence but it's a fun and exhilarating ride about a schoolgirl out for revenge. Stephen Tan reviews.


Bullies in school are already a problem for students but when the bullies have yakuza parents, they become impossible. Mild-mannered Yu Hyuga (Ryôsuke Kawamura) and his friend Takashi are bullied by Sho Kimura (Nobuhiro Nishihara) and his gang and after handing over some extortion money, the two boys are killed when they are dropped off a building.

Yu's sister, high-school student Ami (Minase Yashiro), wants to avenge her brother's death, and goes on a bloody rampage when she takes on the yakuza. She loses her fingers and then her arm when she is caught by the Kimuras but still manages to escape. She turns up at Takashi's parents' motor workshop and her injury is tended to by Takeshi's father, Suguru Sugihara (Yûya Ishikawa), and mother, the feisty Miki (Asami). With revenge on everyone's minds, Miki helps to train the one-armed Ami while Suguru builds a machine gun for her.

The Kimuras discover Ami's whereabouts and a team, including three ninjas, set out for her. With the machine gun perfected in time, Ami defeats the ninjas but Miki is injured and Suguru is killed in the fight. The two then head for the Kimura hideout for the final showdown.

Don't be fooled by what might be seen as a simple revenge tale. Just the opening credit sequence for Noburu Iguchi's Machine Girl (2008) is enough to take your breath away. A scared student with an apple on his head stands against the wall. Just as the bullies start to throw their knives, they are stopped by the one-arm Ami, who attaches a machine gun to her arm and starts blasting away - heads and bodies are not only punctured by the bullets, they are literary shredded away.

With a machine gun or chainsaw strapped to her arm, the defiant-looking Ami recalls Ash (Bruce Campbell) in Evil Dead III: Army Of Darkness. But Ami, in her fuku sailor school outfit, also calls to mind the joshi-kousei, Japanese sex workers in high-school uniform. While it is obvious one of her classmates has a crush on her, and that Ami oozes sexuality, she doesn't use it as a weapon - for her, it's the basic hand-to-hand combat.

Still, like the Sam Raimi movie, Machine Girl sports the same over-the-top comic-book violence: a woman has a knife stuck into her head with the point coming out of her mouth; decapitated bodies and arms that gush blood geyser-like, and a cool sequence showing Suguru's death by deadly shuriken - let's say it easily beats the body split (by barbed wire) of one of the characters in Final Destination II.

Machine Girl would not have worked as well if not for the colourful villains. While schoolboy bully Sho (Nobuhiro Nishihara) looks like a young (Hong Kong actor) Dayo Wong, he is really a wimp. It is his father and mother who are more deadly.

Broadly caricatured, Ryuji Kimura (Kentaro Shimazu) claims to belong to Hatori Hanzo's clan (the swordmaker in Kill Bill) and believes in torture instead of the outright kill. He enjoys toying with Ami by first cutting off her fingers but it is his wife, Violet (Honoka), who is the more vicious.

Outwardly sexy and demure, she thinks nothing of slitting the throat of a new servant who made a mistake. For the chef who spills food on her son, she forces the chef to eat his sushi topped by his chopped-off fingers (to crunching sound effects). But her secret weapon is her driller bra! Just as Shinya Tsukamoto has his driller penis in Tetsuo: The Iron Man, Violet's driller bra can be the death of anyone when wrapped in her tight embrace.

Certainly not for the squeamish. An exhilarating ride if you can stomach the gore and bloodletting. And if you thought Hellraiser's Pinhead was memorable - wait till you meet Machine Girl's Pinhead - this time, it's the women who hammer the nails into a henchman's face. The film was released on DVD in the US in June 2008 and will open theatrically in Japan in August 2008.

Note: The Machine Girl DVD (Tokyo Shock) is banned in $ingapore.

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July 29, 2007


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