Ooooohh! Another movie with more cute, tough girls doing Martial Arts!!…. Is Neko just a wee bit jealous of all the crazy martial art skills on display? Yeah…. but it also makes me wanna watch too! So without further adieu, lets all take a look at the new Japanese Martial Art film “High-Kick Girl!”
Its synopsis? Here we go: “A young high-school girl named Kei Tsuchida (Rina Takeda) joins a karate dojo. Born with extraordinary athletic ability, she quickly outshines her classmates. Her status in the dojo rises quickly as her abilities and strength helps her to even defeat grown men. Despite all her accomplishments, the dojo master Matsumura does not award her the coveted “Blackbelt”. It is clear to him that Kei always plays to win and only cares about combat. Matsumura tries to teach Kei that Karate is about defense more than just fighting and that “the real strength is in the kata”. Kei grows impatient. She feels that she possesses the skills and deserves her blackbelt. Kei will do whatever she has to do to get it, including besting all the best karate fighters in the area in combat.
Having finally exhausted her available opponents, she foolishly decides to join a rival fighting group called the Destroyers at the advice of her friend. Kei becomes deeply involved with Destroyers until one day she discovers the true purpose of their leader. Unknown to her, he is secretly planning a revenge attack on her master Matsumura for an old grievance. Kei is shocked and decides to warn her master. But, it is too late. The Destroyers elite fighters kidnap Kei and are on their way to destroy Matsumura. Matsumura, who has never fought in front of Kei, now must reveal his true power in order to save her. At last, the ultimate fight begins…”
Lots of karate….. lots of bone-crushing hand to hand fighting, old school style, and a pretty girl who can hold her own with the guys. I haven’t looked forward to a Japanese karate movie like this since the old “Sister Street Fighter” with the great Sue Shiomi. Could this one possibly be that much fun? We’ll certainly find out as its time to “Read On”!!
This one starts out with a disappointing J-pop theme that leads into the film itself and gives one the dreaded “shot on video” feeling that will tend to stay with us throughout “High-Kick Girl”. After Thailand’s triumphant “Chocolate” and even the less successful Chinese effort “Coweb”, I had been hoping the Japanese would hit this one out of the park and remind us all they’ve been making films about tough, karate savvy heroines since the 70’s. Rena Takeda certainly has the skills…. and she not even a terrible actress given the rather simple role….. but it’s sad to say the filmmakers didn’t really give her much of a movie to showcase herself in.
That’s a real shame…. our film isn’t a bad idea plot wise, the problem is in the execution. Perhaps they should have learned a lesson from the script here…. “Strength…. It’s all in the Forms……”. There’s a general weakness throughout “High-Kick Girl!”, mostly in the way the action itself is filmed. Want karate to look badass? Then don’t keep showing the fights over and over in slow motion, repeating movements till the audience is sick of seeing them. It can work…. and did in many an old Jackie Chan film or Sonny Chiba’s classic karate films too…. but only when used sparingly at the moments of sheer jaw-dropping action, not all the way throughout the entire film. We get your message the first time…. the fighters really are kicking and punching each other for real. Heck… we figured that out from the Trailer…..
Another real flaw is in the character of Kei herself….. Ummmm?…. Well…. I just plain didn’t like her as a heroine…. not at all. Instead of coming across as a girl empowering herself, yet making the mistake of being foolishly stubborn or learning the way to become honorable, she instead seems to be nothing more than a simple bully. I went to High School with plenty of people as full of themselves as she is portrayed…. and not a one of them was any more likable. At least none of them ever capriciously joined a gang of thugs so they could beat people up for money…. (At least none I ever knew personally, Hehehe!!)
Director Fuyuhiko Nishi is new at his job… having only done one other film, 2008’s also disappointing “Shaolin Girl”, before this one…. and it shows. He’s clumsy in directing anything but fight scenes….. which would be terrible in any other sort of film, but is merely annoying here. Our cast is a mixture of real martial artists and J-pop stars, and at times the varying levels of knowledge of the fighting arts is painfully evident. Still, overall, the film is at it’s best when Kei is fighting, and thankfully there’s lots and lots of that to be had. I just wish we could have had a wee bit less of the slo-mo repeats and a bit more full speed full contact goodness to ogle over. Want to wow your fans with the techniques behind it all? That’s what the final credits are for…. all those cool outtakes that let us see how real and cool the moves are….. “Chocolate” picked that notion up from Jackie Chan and “High-Kick Girl!” could have learned that as well… We fans of the genre love that sort of thing.
So…. all in all… we see that Rena Takeda has certainly got herself some talent…. It’s just going to take a bigger film than this to take the Training wheels off and let them run at speed for us to get excited. Neko gives “High-Kick Girl!” a score of only 2 “Meows” out of 5 for feeling like an afternoon TV version of a Martial Art film. Oh, Japan…. how could you disappoint this wannabe Wuxia Catgirl Heroine so? Waaaahhh!!! Neko wants her karate fix!! Sniff, sniff!!
Trailer!! Of course Neko’s got a Trailer with all the best stuff in the whole film….. so let’s all take a peek!