Movies · Reviews

Foreign Objects: The Machine Girl

The 9th Annual Golden Trailer awards honored the best previews of the year this week, with one very obvious omission — the best trailer of the year: The Machine Girl.
By  · Published on June 1st, 2008

The 9th Annual Movie Preview Awards aired this past Memorial Day, and if you weren’t aware an awards show for movie trailers existed, let alone for the past nine years, you’re not the only one. This year’s winners included I am Legend for Best Horror, The Dark Knight for Best Action, Tropic Thunder for Best Comedy, and Awake for the Golden Fleece (the best trailer for a bad movie.) On the plus side one of this year’s judges was Joss Whedon, and the fact that the awards exist at all is pretty cool too. On the downside though, it was hosted by Sinbad and aired on MyNetwork TV. The show’s biggest sin is one of omission. They neglected to even mention the absolute best trailer of the year, period. If you haven’t seen it yet, behold the glory of… The Machine Girl.

It’s easy to be excited about trailers for The Dark Knight, Iron Man and other movies you’re already expecting great things from. The trailers usually confirm and expand upon that feeling. But The Machine Girl came out of nowhere (it came out of Japan actually…) to win my heart with its grue-filled, Jacksonesque zaniness. Yes it’s over the top and ridiculous, but it also looked like shitloads of fun. The movie was one of my most anticipated of the year based solely on the trailer. Of course, I was also excited after first seeing the trailers for The Strangers, Teeth, and Strange Wilderness

I finally got to see The Machine Girl this past week, and while it doesn’t quite live up to the promise of the trailer (how could it really?) it’s still delightfully absurd, unbelievably bloody, and the best family film of the year. Okay, maybe not so much that last one, but the movie is fun, gory, and cartoonish. This is basically an exploitation film of the revenge variety, but it’s presented with such gleeful exuberance you’ll find yourself wearing a smile for at least half of the running time.

Ami is a sweet college girl whose parents committed suicide after being framed for a crime they didn’t commit. See where the revenge angle is coming from? No, you don’t, the parents are barely mentioned again. (Sequel!) She’s now the sole guardian for her younger brother, Yu, and has decided since her parents’ death that they will live a life free from violence. Unknown to Ami, Yu has been suffering at the hands of some local bullies, and he and his friend Takeshi are soon killed by the teen thugs. In her attempt to find answers from one of the gang member’s parents she’s instead attacked and has her arm fried in tempura batter. This obviously can’t stand and Ami quickly realizes violence is indeed the answer. Her quest for revenge takes her up against a powerful (and dementedly goofy) Yakuza clan who succeed in slicing off her arm with a Hattori Hanzo ninja sword. Escaping with her life, Ami is taken in by Takeshi’s parents who sew her arm up and fashion a machine gun to fit over the stump. What other choice did they have?

The Machine Girl succeeds because director Noboru Iguchi knows he’s making a comedy. The movie never takes itself seriously, even in the scenes where blood isn’t spraying as if from a garden hose. Every wound results in pneumatically powered arterial gushers that soak everyone and everything in range, including the camera. Limbs and torsos are cleaved in half with a chainsaw, fingers are fed to their owner, and the woman responsible for the tempura-ing of our heroine’s arm is stabbed through the back of her head causing her to vomit both bile and (inexplicably) her large intestine. This movie is a joy to watch even during the limited exposition scenes. The acting is as wide-ranging as the bombastic blood cannons, but that doesn’t lower the fun factor one bit. Poor acting and writing is par for the course in exploitation, and so is the seemingly diametrically opposed attitude toward women.

They’re sex objects flashing the occasional glimpse of white underwear beneath the schoolgirl skirt, and they’re constantly threatened with rape. Sexual assault against Ami is attempted once and suggested or inferred several more times, and after murdering Ami’s friend the Yakuza leader directs his henchmen to rape the dead girl because the chance to have sex with a college girl doesn’t happen everyday… but again, this is a comedy, so the scene mercifully cuts away to more palatable affairs. Namely, Ami and her female cohort slicing and dicing some serious male ass. The flipside to the sexual victimization of women is empowering them to fight against, humiliate, and defeat any and all of their male oppressors. It could be argued that transforming the women into superior fighters, victors, and dominators of the men in the end is itself a fetish in its own right, but if so it works to create a nicely balanced fetish gift basket for the audience to enjoy. (FTD should offer Fetish Gift Baskets…)

If you don’t enjoy the trailer above then you should definitely pass on The Machine Girl, but if you have the sense of humor (and stomach) required I strongly suggest you seek the movie out. Go into it expecting blood, laughs, and craziness. You’ll get all that and more.

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.