From martial artist and filmmaker Fuyuhiko Nishi comes this standardized film that emphasizes on two things: the Japanese martial art of karate and seeing the typical high kicking schoolgirl, hence the name of the film.
Kei Tsuchiya is a brown belt in karate under her sensei Matsumura. She wants desperately to become a black belt and feels that she must take on a group of blackbelts to prove her mettle. After showing off to save a friend from students at a rival school, Kei is hounded by her sensei. The real reason why Kei is unable to earn her black belt? She has trouble performing kata, the forms that help make up the art of karate.
Grown tired of waiting, Kei gets a call from a mysterious person. She gets an opportunity to join the Destroyers, a gang of martial arts fighters who are somewhat like mobsters and even get paid for their actions. To show what she has in terms of skills, Kei decides to test herself in hopes to join the Destroyers. When she passes, she learns the truth about the gang’s intentions. They want to kill Matsumura for an incident that happened in the past. Kei finds herself and her friend Ryunosuke kidnapped. When members of the Destroyers go after the assistant instructor at Matsumura’s dojo, it is now up to Sensei Matsumura to confront the gang to save his students.
This film is clearly part of a resurging trend where females are once again taking the lead in martial arts action films. Following Thailand’s Chocolate starring Jeeja Yanin and Hong Kong’s Coweb with wushu expert Jiang Luxia, Japan may have found their new action heroine in seventeen-year old karateka Rina Takeda. She clearly has the looks and skills to match a future action heroine. Director Fuyuhiko Nishi definitely made the right casting choice in Takeda, who is not only a real-life black belt, but a champion martial artist as well. Her first fight scene opens with her using her high kick against a bully is stockier and taller than her. Takeda truly has what it takes to become a future action star. To show respect for the art of karate, Takeda may sport the schoolgirl uniform for her fight scenes, but don’t expect the stereotypical Japanese cinematic technique of “schoolgirl panty shots” because that is not in this film.
Takeda’s performance doesn’t take away that of the supporting cast. Nishi truly did good and hired all real-life karatekas as cast members. Tatsuya Naka, who played Taikan in Nishi’s Black Belt, truly shows the skills of a karateka. While he may play the Sensei here, he brings the true meaning of karate to the mix. Naka, like Takeda, gets to showcase some fine martial arts skills, especially in the third act, which pits him against members of the Destroyers, including two female members. The female members are skilled in what looks like Muay Thai and a little taste of perhaps Chinese Kung Fu.
The Destroyers themselves make for good villains. Kei’s “test” consists of her taking on members of the gang and the most impressive include her fights against real-life Aikido black belt Sayaka Akimoto followed by a nice kicking duel between Takeda and Yuka Kobayashi. In the fight scene against Matsumura’s students, karatekas Aya Sugiyama and Ichiro Sugisawa showcase some heavy duty kicking and acrobatics that may make the viewer go wild.
The martial arts choreography, done by Nishi-san himself, is truly free from wires and computer effects. Nishi wanted to use the real forms of Japanese karate and it brings back memories of some of the classic Sonny Chiba films and perhaps the South African martial arts films Kill or Be Killed and Kill and Kill Again. While the choreography is well handled, there seems to be an overabundance of slow motion double takes that after a while, gets utterly overused to an effect and makes one scratch their head and wonder why they decided to go with that. It’s truly ok to do a slow motion double take now and again, but it is not a good idea to overuse it and here is a prime example of what not to do when using the slow motion tactic.
Despite that potentially fatal flaw, High Kick Girl is not too bad of a film. While the plot is pretty standard and throwaway, the fight scenes are quite fun to watch despite the overuse of slow motion.
WFG RATING: B
Hexagon Pictures presents a Nagoya Boradcasting Network production in association with Digital Hollywood Entertainment K.K. Director: Fuyuhiko Nishi. Producers: Ken Nakanishi and Fuyuhiko Nishi. Writers: Fuyuhiko Nishi and Yoshikatsu Kimura. Cinematography: Nobuyuki Matsui. Editing: Hiroshi Kawahara.
Cast: Rina Takeda, Tatsuya Naka, Ryûki Takahashi, Kyôji Amano, Masahiro Sudô, Akihito Yagi, Kazuma Yamane, Shinji Suzuki, Mayu Gamou, Kazutoshi Yokoyama, Ichirô Sugisawa, Hisae Watanabe, Fuyuhiko Nishi, Aya Sugiyama.