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June 01, 2010

High Kick Girl!

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Hai kikku garu!
Fuyuhiko Nishi - 2009
First Look Studios Region 1 DVD

With a remake of The Karate Kid coming soon, maybe it's time to look a real karate kid. Rina Takeda is a bit older than Jaden Smith, by seven years. She also has a black belt, and not just the kind available at Sak's Fifth Avenue. For myself, I would rather watch a skinny Japanese girl who really knows how to kick ass than someone pretending in an overpriced Hollywood film.

Any resemblance to a plot in High Kick Gir!l is comparable to the structure of a porn movie, which is to say that there is a very thin story created to string along a bunch of scenes to create something feature length. Just as a porn film is primarily comprised of scenes of various kinds of meetings and matings, High Kick Girl! is a bunch of scenes of people getting together to beat the crap out of each other, using feet, hands, and the occasional weapon.

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Kei, the title character, goes around looking for black belt karate students to beat up. Her wimpy pal, who tags along, decides to recruit her with The Destroyers, a professional bunch of thugs for hire. As it turns out, they have a fifteen year grudge against Kei's teacher, Matsumura. Even though Matsumura appears to be teaching karate at an established location, none of The Destroyers can find him. It's as if the characters live in an alternative version of Tokyo, where there is no Google, or even a phone book. Kei thinks she wants to be a Destroyer until she finds out why she's wanted by the bad guys. In the meantime, we get to watch her fighting it out with a bunch of girls in sailor suit school girl uniforms, with one small girl proving herself a tough opponent.

This might have been a somewhat better film had the martial arts been filmed better. To compare, one can look at the framing of the fight scenes in Chocolate, which also feature a young, female martial arts star. Some of the impact is lost with the more improvised shooting of High Kick Girl!. Nishi also pads the film with lots of aerial shots of Tokyo. Even more obvious, every kick, crunch and thud is repeated, as well as each whoop, yell and assorted kung-fu vocalizing. Not only do we see the action twice much of the time, but Nishi also repeats the action in slo-mo and slower-mo.

On the plus side, compared to such films as Machine Girl, Nishi doesn't exploit the women in this film as some of his peers might have done. Yes, this is a Japanese film, but not the kind of Japanese film designed for guys to watch girls flash their white panties. Nishi tries to incorporate a life lesson regarding karate's purpose for self defense, but what most viewers will remember is the petite member of The Destroyers leaping over a much taller man, and kicking him in the face.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at June 1, 2010 12:36 AM