One of the most important Japanese exploitation efforts, Noboru Iguchi’s seminal “Machine Girl” still remains today a standout example of the explosion of crazy, over-the-top films that were part of a beloved crop of cult films from that time. Now, nearly a decade later, Iguchi steps back to instead produce a reboot of this film with up-and-coming director Yûki Kobayashi, now screening at the 2019 edition of Camera Japan.
Living in the lawless Ishinari District in a future Japan, sisters Ami (Hina Nagimiya) and Yoshie (Hanakage Kanon) who sold their bodies to help their parents, try to earn a living performing as an idol group in the area. When their performance causes stranger Matsukata (Tak Sakaguchi) a notorious hitman, to notice their condition, the three realize their worth to each other in the fight against Aoyama Dharma (Kimono Negishi), the female boss of a notorious organ harvesting ring in the area. Realizing that even their skills are no match for her army of goons and henchmen, the two are outfitted with special homemade weaponry to their bodies and become the ultimate killers.
‘Rise of the Machine Girl’ is an enjoyable enough if somewhat flawed effort. The film works is when it goes overboard on the ludicrous action and splatter that has been a series trademark. This is starts off almost immediately with the opening assault on the henchmen which gives the film a high-energy opening alongside the copious blood spray unleashed. Their pop-idol performance, featuring choreographed shootouts and flips in front of the audience, is a nice change of pace from other such scenes in other films, and the raids on Dharma’s organ-harvesting centers offer up several intriguing short bursts of fun gunplay during the craziness. A stellar encounter with the enhanced models wiping out the troop lead by Matsukata the assassin in the abandoned factory features plenty of blazing stuntwork and crazy action set-pieces that play up the traditional sexy angle with their enhanced weaponry that adds the bizarre element from the franchise. The final half appearance of the pregnant assassin with a special surprise packed inside her anatomy is where the film really hits its stride where a plethora of action setpieces arrive with numerous gun-battles, excessive stuntwork and utterly impressive practical effects that make this a fine action-centered exploitation offering.
That said, there are still problems with ‘Rise.’ Among the biggest is the incredibly obvious and somewhat painfully apparent low-budget that hampers the film more than anything.else. The main culprit is the paltry look and feel present here that are entirely underwhelming. Despite being set in a post-apocalyptic setting, the entire setup of the small village where Ami and Yoshi live is just flimsy walls and abandoned locations. These locations fail to really enhance the scope of the storyline as it just screams cheap and low-budget instead. The molds for the weaponry are no better, with the machine parts looking like plastic parts with no detail or realistic flourishes applied to make it seem like they’re believably attached. The other distressing part about that is the over-use of cheap CGI that comes about for everything; from extravagant body weaponry to the blood-splatter which is a direct contradiction to what made the original so fun with the over-the-top practical effects. Going with the CGI here is wholly underwhelming and disappointing, especially after the greatness of the practical efforts earlier on.
The other issue with ‘Rise’ is the disjointed pacing. There’s a wholly disappointing feature where the film spends a great deal of time in the first half setting up the unique universe that exists, that really could’ve been left to the propaganda video that tells everything needed about the society. Instead, writer/director Kobayashi and co-writer Jun Tsugita’s script meanders around with these utterly unnecessary tangents featuring aspects unimportant to the main story or why Amy and Yumi are getting mechanized implants that would turn them into machine girls which is the whole point of the film. That, in turn, keeps those action scenes into brief spurts where they’re over so quick it’s hard to get any true enjoyment out of the scenes.
As well, the finale features the utterly curious decision to film an entire battle between Ami and Matsukata and Dharma’s evil henchmen entirely in fast-motion as if trying to get through the sequence quicker, which is confusing as that material could’ve provided the film with a longer run-time, had the explosive action been viewed in a regular format. Instead, as it just comes off as a curiosity to leave it in that format here which are what hold this one down.
Despite a few solid points involving the action present here, for the most part, ‘Rise’ is a cheap, staggering effort that serves as a wholly underwhelming reboot of one of the most enjoyable and impressive Japanese exploitation offering in its history. Only the curious or the most ardent follower of J-exploitation will find much of value here while most will simply want to stick with the far better and entertaining original.