In the scale of big Hong Kong martial arts films, where does Japan stand? In contemporary Japanese cinema, there’s no close equivalent to Donnie Yen, and Sonny Chiba has long been relegated to small roles in American movies… and I’m not even talking about Kill Bill or his stunt in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. No, his latest movie is called Sushi Girl. So I can’t really complain too much when Japan gives me a movie with a butt-kicking girl lead to boot! High-Kick Girl! is a low budget action Z movie that follows Kei Tsuchiya (Rina Takeda) a crazy talented black belt karate pupil that has one major flaw: she’s full of arrogance. Her sensei Yoshiaki Matsumura (Tatsuya Naka) doesn’t appreciate that his star student is so insolent with everyone else who doesn’t “reach” her level of karate, daring to fight and beat up all the students from all the other karate schools. One day, she mixes with the wrong sort of people… an evil organization known as The Destroyers, who seem to be more interested in getting to Kei’s sensei instead of her.
I gotta admit. The trailer won me over with the “No wires. No stuntmen. Literally… really kicking.” texts over Rina Takeda doing all sorts of kicking. But guys, be warned. This is TRULY low budget, and the worst of all was director Fuyuhiko Nishi’s bright idea of repeating every single fight scene he ever included in his movie right after he had just shown it. Worst of all, he repeats them in torturing slow-motion, so whatever fun and excitement you had is immediately sucked from you. It’s as if Nishi needed to make High-Kick Girl! a feature length film, and he only had material for a short, so he decided to show everything twice. I wonder if someone could take the actual movie, cut all the slo-mo repeats, and render a regular version, because that one will actually be… kind of decent.
If your brain somehow manages to ignore all the repetition, like the human brain usually does when confronted with trauma, you will find good elements in High-Kick Girl!. For starters, star Rina Takeda IS actually a black belt and seriously kicks some major butt in the movie — for pure laughs and in all her seriousness — Please, someone take her to Hong Kong for some one-on-one tutoring with Donnie Yen and make her an action star already! Also, there’s some earnest teachings about karate not seen often enough in martial arts films, which my dad loved to point out. One never gets to see arrogance getting what it deserves. Seeing Rina Takeda butt-whooping is cool, but you don’t learn martial arts to get back at your bullies, you Karate Kid punk.
Overall, I really mean it when I say that High-Kick Girl! is not for everyone. It’s not completely horrible if you get over the fact that each scene has a slo-mo version, but if Rina Takeda finds the way to a better director, who will handle her fighting scenes better, she might might be able to find the right path to become a better actress. At the moment, she’s quite an interesting newbie action star.