Friday, June 26, 2009

REVIEW: Cyborg She

僕の彼女はサイボーグ (Boku no Kanojo wa Saibogu)

Released: 2008

Kwak Jae-yong

Haruka Ayase

Keisuke Koide
Naoto Takenaka
Kenichi Endo
Hiromasa Taguchi

Running time: 120 min.

Reviewed by Chris MaGee

Okay, imagine if you will this cinematic scenario: a film that brings together James Cameron's "Terminator 2", a romantic comedy and a natural disaster movie. Let that sink in for a second. "Terminator", a romantic comedy, and a disaster movie. Seems absolutely absurd, doesn't it? In fact it sounds so absurd that there's some little kernel inside of you that would like to see a film like this work, even if it's on the so-bad-it's-good level. Sadly I have to report that despite any film geek dreams like that that you might harbour this big screen chimera has already been made by Korean director Kwak Jae-yong, it's called "Cyborg She", and that it is bad, really, really bad. The only thing that kept me going through its 2-hours of genre mash-up were two shake your head and mumble, "What the f**k is going on?" moments that in the end really didn't even merit the long trip to the end credits.

Here's the basic plot breakdown: It's November 22nd, 2007 and University student Jiro (Keisuke Koide) is spending his 20th birthday the way he has spent most of his birthdays for the past few years: alone, buying himself a present because it seems that no one else will, and taking himself out for a spaghetti dinner because his mother told him that eating noodles on the day you were born promotes long life. It's sad, but not depressing. There's something almost cozy about Jiro's isolation. If he had someone to share his special day with all the better, but c'est la vie. But hold on! As Jiro shops in a department store he sees a drop dead gorgeous girl in a space age looking unitard flirting with him. Flirting with him hard. Hard like she could give him a bruise, hard enough that we start to question her mental stability. This girl, played by Haruka Aysae (last seen in "Boobs Volleyball" and "Ichi"), ends up following him out of the store, straight to the Italian restaurant he patronizes each year and she proceeds to wish him a happy birthday and order one of everything on the menu. After a food binge that would have most girls this skinny stuffing their fingers down their throat the duo do the old dine and dash and a night of heart-thumping romance begins; that is until we really start questioning this nameless girl's mental stability when outside Jiro's humble home she starts crying and going on about how he told her that she's always saying and doing the wrong thing, that she punches to hard and that he said he never wants to see her again. Then she disappears. This is the first "What the f**k is going on?" moment I mentioned.

So, nameless girl disappears, Jiro is left pining for a peek under her silver unitard and we jump ahead another year to Jiro's 21st birthday: alone, buying himself a present, taking himself out for a spaghetti dinner at the same restaurant, but now wondering who that hot crazy chick he met last year was. Enter Haruka Ayase again, this time using the exact same special effects that Arnold Schwarzenegger used as the T-1000 in "The Terminator" films: curled up in the fetal position she appears in a ball of lightning and proceeds to walk robotically through the streets. Well, normally Arnold was naked, and Ayase isn't, a fact that irked me throughout "Cyborg She". The only difference is it seems this year she's had a frontal lobotomy. She stumbles, stares and generally acts like the T-1000, but she doesn't kill Jiro, she tells him she's come from the future to help him, save him in fact from a number of freak accidents that will end up leaving him confined to a robotic wheelchair 65 years from now. She even shows him a holographic message from himself to prove it. Apparently this girl, well not a girl, but this cyborg will help him avoid this fate. Okay... but how does that explain the pixy-ish Ayase who showed up at the start of the film? She had a personality after all. That is the second "What the f**k is going on?" moment in "Cyborg
She" that had me sit through this whole disaster just to find out why Ayase's character had this major personality over haul. I wish I hadn't.

Asian film fans will know the name Kwak Jae-yong from his 2001 Pan-Asian comedy hit "My Sassy Girl" and here he brings the over the top aesthetic of South Korean films to Japan and spends 120-minutes jerking us back and forth from time travel science fiction to the most saccharine and banal romantic comedy cliches in an attempt to convince us that true love knows no bounds, not even the rules of time and space laid out in Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. Ah, what did Einstein know anyway?! I could go on and tell you about how Jiro's cyborg girlfriend goes on to save children from speeding dump trucks, high school kids from knife-wielding maniacs, or Jiro himself from a killing spree in the previously mentioned Italian restaurant, but why bother. Two hours went by during which Jiro never even got a good necking session in with his cyborg girlfriend and the final explanation as to why she had a split personality (that I won't spoil) left me wondering why I didn't pick another film to watch on a Saturday night at home. "Cyborg She"? No thank you.

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