Film / Reviews

'Meatball Machine Kodoku': Proud to be a bloody mess

by Mark Schilling

Special To The Japan Times

In a career spanning three decades, Yoshihiro Nishimura has done about every job on the credit crawl — from gaffer to director. He is best known, however, as a mad master of effects and makeup, spewing blood sprays that achieve a certain demented grandeur and building fantastic creatures that resemble raging piles of medical waste with body parts attached.

His low-budget movies may get labeled as sci-fi or action, but they’re little like the films of those genres that at least attempt to maintain a veneer of sanity. Many, such as “Tokyo Gore Police” (2008) and “Hell Driver” (2010), have played at international festivals and been released on subbed DVDs. Despite this recognition, Nishimura rarely strays outside the exploitation ghetto.

His latest film as a director, “Meatball Machine Kodoku,” shows why. A follow-up to Yudai Yamaguchi and Junichi Yamamoto’s 2005 film “Meatball Machine,” which in turn reworked a 1999 film by Yamamoto, this sci-fi actioner is also high on blood showers and low on real-world cause and effect. But the setting is clearly today’s Tokyo, not a figment of Nishimura’s over-heated imagination.

Meatball Machine Kodoku (Kodoku Mitoboru Mashin)
Rating
Run Time 100 mins
Language JAPANESE

As with his other films, Nishimura pulls out all the stops and crosses every line imaginable, including the one between good and bad taste. The story is nonsense, the action is nonstop and the shocks are jaw-droppingly outrageous in an “I can’t believe I’m watching this” way.

“Meatball Machine Kodoku” is also the typical Nishimura film squared, as though he is out to prove he can out-do Yamamoto, Yamaguchi and anyone else who has ever made this type of film. One indication of that is in the program notes where Nishimura boasts of using four tons of prop blood — which may be a kind of record, if not one that Guinness tracks. This film feels like his stab at B-movie immortality.

Yoji Tanaka, who must be Japan’s hardest working bit actor, plays Yuji, a sad-sack bill collector with a scold of a boss and a miserable life. On top of that, he is diagnosed with cancer. And to top that, the pretty bookstore clerk he likes, Kaoru (the single-named Yurisa), is deep in debt and being pursued by a stalker. Happiness seems as out of reach for our hero as outer space.

Which is where an existential threat to humanity originates: Alien creatures called Necroborgs invade Earth, turning the natives into robotic death-dealing monsters. One is Yuji, who transforms into an ambulatory assembly of body parts with superhuman powers, while retaining his essential humanity, courtesy of his cancer cells. When the stalker, now Necroborg’ed into a monster, abducts Kaoru, Yuji sets out to rescue her.

The action is violent, absurd and obscene in the extreme. A monster shoots bullets out of his (her?) massive breasts. A woman shrieks in agony as sprays of her blood and chunks of her flesh fly skyward, looking as if someone turned on the blender but forgot to put on the lid. Meanwhile, the stalker, with Kaoru and a hapless kid in tow, races through Tokyo cackling like a maniac.

What could have been shocking or funny in smaller doses becomes head-bangingly repetitious. See “Meatball Machine Kodoku” as a midnight movie, if you will, but don’t go to the theater sleepy: Nishimura’s crazed vision may end up becoming your nightmare.