Sunday, May 9, 2010

Review: Machine Girl (2008)

This movie was emotionally confused. It was never sure whether it wanted to be a ridiculous and funny gore-fest, or a serious exploration of the effect violence can have on people's lives. And so it just sort of randomly oscillated between those two extreme states, never being quite sure what it was trying to make the audience feel. I could buy a movie where the characters lived in a world of such ridiculous violence that they are desensitised to it. Or I could buy a movie with characters who are not used to insane levels of violence, and so they become traumatised by it. But I cannot buy a movie where the characters are both of those things, at the same time.

Take for example the scene where Ami's brother is about to be killed, and Ami is attempting to run to his rescue. While running, she comes across a group of men who attempt to rape her, she blithely beats them all up, and keeps running. Nobody in this scene seems particularly concerned about what is going on - I mean, Ami doesn't want to be raped or anything, and the men don't want to be beaten up or anything, but the scene is played as if this was just an every day occurance in the film's world. But then she sees her brother's dead body lying on the pavement, and she finds this experience emotionally crippling. So, why is the death of her brother emotionally crippling, but not a group of men attempting to rape her? It makes no emotional sense, and given the fact that about half of the movie the film seems to want the audience to take it seriously on an emotional level, this total lack of emotional sense makes the audience feel confused and bored.

Another example - the film begins with a pretty good action sequence, where a bunch of bullies are throwing knives at a schoolboy's face. A schoolgirl with a machinegun for an arm bursts in, shoots the shit out of all the bullies, then leaves. This seems to set the film up as taking place in a world of ridiculously exagerated violence - a world in which 'bullying' is intentionally deadly, and which a one-armed school girl just chooses to replace her missing arm with a machine gun. I can accept this world, as long as I am not meant to take any of it seriously - it is all ridiculous, and the scene seems to set the film's tone as being one of ridiculous, comical violence. But the problem is that, even though while watching the openning scene the audience doesn't care about any of the characters and just assumes the film is going to be mindless violence, the film takes a sharp turn, and seems to want its audience to retroactively give a shit about the scene they watched. Like, while you were watching the openning you were supposed to be thinking, "oh shit, this is awesome. I don't know what the hell is going on, but damn." But after the movie is over, you're supposed to realise that the openning scene, in retrospect, was supposed to provide catharsis, except that we hadn't seen what it was supposed to provide catharsis for. This is just really poor structurally. I don't know why this film wanted me to care about its characters.

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