Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Machine Girl (2008)

Kataude mashin gâru

There are revenge flicks, and there are revenge flicks. It's an old formula, and it still works beautifully. Person has happy life, person's happy life gets fucked up, person seeks vengeance on the bastards (usually organized crime) who did the deed. The formula works especially well if the protagonist is a woman, and for several years now this tiny sub-genre has done pretty well. Raquel Welch did okay with Robert Culp's and Christopher Lee's help in Hannie Caulder; some rapist punks got their comeuppance just fine in the deadly-serious I Spit On Your Grave, to name two examples. When Tarantino did Kill Bill, we thought that maybe we'd seen the ultimate expression of the idea. At least, not in an ultra-cool, pop-culture-suffused, Japanese-themed way, despite Quentin's hard work. The title for all-time greatest chick-revenge flick now goes to a recently-released (on DVD) gem called Kataude mashin gâru, or Machine Girl. Machine Girl takes the best, wildest, and most visually-charged elements of Asian movies - mostly Japanese samurai and yakuza flicks, but also the more popular Hong Kong action fare - and blends them all into a super-satisfying treat for viewers. The violence is so over-the-top that it become cartoonish; the characters are outlandish, comic-booky - and that's meant in a good way. The young women are all gorgeous, the villains are truly villainous, the heroes are usually heroic (usually), and nobody, but nobody, gets to die peacefully in their sleep. More likely, they get a katana blade stabbed straight down through the tops of their heads, their blood spurting out in a soft red fountain.

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