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Assault Girls (2009)

DVD Cover (Well Go USA)
Genres / Traits:
Action, Sci-Fi Action, Science Fiction, Post Apocalyptic, Video Games
Director:
Mamoru Oshii Mamoru Oshii
Starring:
Yoshikazu Fujiki Yoshikazu Fujiki
Rinko Kikuchi Rinko Kikuchi
Meisa Kuroki Meisa Kuroki
Hinako Saeki Hinako Saeki

3.8 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Crispy
Added: June 23, 2012
You know, this was a really hard movie to fuck up. Damned if Mamoru Oshii didn't find a way. It's amazing how often I find myself typing that sentence.

In the distant future, post-apocalyptic whatnots have resulted in the virtual reality game Avalon becoming a huge hit. Never mind the current VR, we now have the technology to actually put users into a game world. In Avalon, players can upgrade to different levels and fight the indigenous creatures, earning points used to purchase upgrades to stats, weapons and other high-damage equipment. When players become strong enough and defeat the level's boss, they move on to the next world. Through it all, players are advised by an omniscient voice, the Game Master. 'F' is a rather high-level world; in fact, there are only four gamers that have reached this spot. They are Gray, a sniper who spends her points on technology, including jets and an advance rifle; Colonel, who's attached a devastating grenade launcher to her automatic rifle; Lucifer, a whimsical goth who has passed up traditional artillery for magic-based attacks; and the only male avatar, Jager, a man who's put every ounce of his points into gear, earning him an eight-foot long, 20 mm sniper rifle. Their quarry on this world are huge subterranean snakes called sandwhales, with the boss being Madara, an exceptionally massive sandwhale with rocket launchers on its back. The foursome pretty much despise each other, but seeing as none of them can handle Madara solo, they may have to put all that behind them for the greater good.

Sounds like a a shitload of non-stop fun, doesn't it? Of course it does, and sometimes it is. You see, this is a sixty-five minute movie, short by anyone's standards, and I'd say a good half of that is padding. Yes, padding in a movie that barely breaks an hour. And even worse, it has a very nice beginning (after that ten minute spoken intro anyway) and a wicked ending, but the middle is an absolute wasteland of nothing. When the Game Master tells Gray that she needs to form a party with the other two, we begin a TWENTY MINUTE MONTAGE of the four characters walking aimlessly through the desert, playing with a fucking snail, and following some random dog that pops up and disappears just as quickly. Then it wraps up with a five minute scene of Jager eating beans, and a wack-ass martial arts duel between Gray and Jager that might have been entertaining if it ran for half the time. OK, I know this is kind of a trademark of Oshii (hell, Assault Girls is something of a spiritual sequel to his film Avalon, which is entirely that style), but when he started, he specialized in the "plenty of violence" fun stuff that should have defined Assault Girls. Instead, he tried to use both styles interchangeably; it sure as hell didn't work. Halfway through this nonsense, I was actually starting to get angry.

So, what you need to watch is 9:00 to 30:00, 48:00 to 54:00, and 58:00 to the end. Truthfully, those could use some trimming for pacing as well, but the four minute spot between 54:00 and 58:00 was that dumb fist-fight that could have readded after the editing. Anyway, the times I gave leave exactly forty-four minutes. You know what that is? The EXACT average time of an hour-long episode after allotting for commercials. And you know what, this would be the perfect pilot for a TV series. These four characters are more than interesting enough to carry an ongoing show; especially given the shaky dynamic between them. Plus, with ever-changing levels, they wouldn't run the risk of the show becoming too stale. And that's even before they decide to delve deeper into their RL identities, something which was touched upon here.

With all my complaints, those forty-four minutes of relevance were the shit. I loved every second of it. The effects that brought the sandwhales to life weren't spectacular, but they were more than enough to keep me happy. I loved the video game aspects of it as well. When one is killed, it would blow apart as pixels, and a computer-green image of the monster would appear along with points totals. Dead players are later respawned and the Game Master informs them of their death and EXP loss. It's this virtual reality concept that adds a lot of the fun into the movie. The score fits these virtual theme beautifully as well. And again, these characters were actually interesting, even if they were a little under-developed what with the short running time. Gray is the leading lady here, and provides a nice "straight man" to the defiant Jager. Lucifer was my favorite of the lot. While the other three enjoy various forms of heavy artillery, she's dumped all of her points into magic; firing energy orbs and lightning bolts while transformed as a crow is all well and good, but it's her absolutely whimsical attitude that defines her for me. She spends more time dancing without a care in the world, even while in the middle of a battle against the Madara. The only one I wasn't crazy about was Colonel; she wasn't exactly bad, she just didn't get enough time to matter one way or another. Plus, her English was much more heavily accented than the other two. Thank God they subtitled that too.

As it stands, there's no way I can recommend this movie. Maybe one day I'll edit out the bullshit and upload it on Youtube, but until then: 2/10.
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