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Meatball Machine Print E-mail
User Rating: / 11
Written by William Weird   
Saturday, 12 January 2008

"Meatbll Machine" 2005 Poster - Click to Enlarge - Severed Cinema

Directed by: Yudai Yamaguchi, Jun'ichi Yamamoto
Written by: Junya Kato
Produced by: Yukihiko Yamaguchi
Cinematography by: Shinji Kugimiya, Shu G. Momose
Special Effects by: Yoshihiro Nishimura
Cast: Issei Takahashi, Aoba Kawai, Kenichi Kawasaki, Shôichirô Masumoto, Toru Tezuka, Ayano Yamamoto
Year: 2005
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Color: Color
Runtime: 90 Minutes

Distributor: King Record Co.
Official Website:
A lot of things have been said about this movie since it's North American debut, mostly about it being a hollow, mediocre, shameless rip-off of the “Tetsuo: The Iron Man” films.  The majority of the attitudes expressed towards “Meatball Machine” have been negative or, perhaps worse yet, apathetic.  Those who've claimed to see similarities between “Meatball Machine” and “Tetsuo: The Iron Man” (in other words EVERYONE) are not mistaken.  But it is my contention that “Meatball Machine” is not a rip-off but, rather, a playful, self-aware riff on the same general themes that the “Tetsuo” movies so classically essayed.  What's more, I'm about to commit an act of cinematic heresy in proclaiming my heartfelt belief that (SHOCK!! OUTRAGE!!) when you hold “Meatball Machine” and “Tetsuo: The Iron Man” side by side, “Meatball Machine” is actually the superior of the two movies!

Now before you all you folks in film fan land out there start sharpening your blades in preparation for carving me a new orifice in response to my blasphemous ways, take time to hear me out.  First of all, let me state that I am not ignorant of the enormous quality and impact of the “Tetsuo” films.  I myself own them and am big fans of 'em, especially the first one.  They are legendary pictures that have influenced generations of movie makers and fans.  They are dark, violent, visceral examinations of intelligent themes portrayed with a kinetic, surreal, post-industrial style that is, frankly, awesome.  And when the great stories of the Asian film industry are listed in the great big eternal book of justifiably legendary cinema, the “Tetsuo” movies will undoubtedly be amongst those titles while “Meatball Machine” will wind up, at best, a footnote.  But, to be honest, “Tetsuo” is widely considered to be superior to “Meatball Machine” for two main reasons.

1. “Tetsuo: The Iron Man” is a weird-ass film and, as much a classic as it is, even today there are a lot of people who have trouble wrapping their heads around a movie as bizarre as it is.  Meatball Machine is an even more bizarre movie, an eccentric, low budget, mishmash of all sorts of opposing tidbits of filmic strangeness.  Thus, it's even harder for people to wrap their heads around.

2. “Tetsuo: The Iron Man” is an old film that has stood the test of time and claimed a massive impact on what came after it.  It has reached cult classic status.  As such it sits upon a lofty pedestal, a gilded throne.  And I think we all know that when a movie is a classic virtually no one is willing to knock it down a few pegs in response to a more recent and more technically primitive take on the same concepts, no matter how good it is.

There you have it.  I honestly have to say that while, yes, “Tetsuo” is a classic... the primary reason for the majority's consensus that “Meatball Machine” doesn't hold a candle to it is because of Tetsuo's status as a classic.  However, if “Tetsuo: The Iron Man” were to come out for the first time today at the same time as the release of “Meatball Machine” -- if these two disparate pictures were made and released together, back to back, then I honestly believe that while I'd still consider “Tetsuo” an awesome movie, but it’d be “Meatball Machine” that’d go down as the cult classic.

Then again, “Meatball Machine” does have a few other things working against it.  Like I said, I'm sure much of the reluctance to embrace this film comes from how eclectic and off-the-wall WEIRD it is, even in comparison to “Tetsuo”.  Also, it's got a much lower budget look to it than “Tetsuo”.  Money was tight on “Meatball Machine” and it shows.  But for my salt, I actually feel that's one of Meatball's strengths.  The whimsical and stylized low budget feel to everything gives it a certain heart, a certain passionate energy, and a certain sense of innocent fun that I like a lot.  In fact, I actually prefer it to Tetsuo's unrelentingly hard-edged, downbeat, dark, and somber tone.  Similarly, while many have denounced “Meatball” for its outrageously oddball pastiche approach to cross-pollenization, claiming this as one of the film's biggest flaws, I have to say that this is one of my favorite characteristics of “Meatball”.  People have accused the movie of being too strange, too eclectic, but I absolutely adore the way it mixes genres and styles together in a big potpourri of pulp.  I felt like I was watching a live-action sci-fi horror anime movie while viewing this flick, what with the way it blends comedy, romance, science fiction, drama, horror, kung-fu, action-adventure, industrial, gore, grindhouse, and creature feature genre elements together in a way that's intentionally not-quite-seamless.  “Meatball Machine” is an intelligently low brow high impact splatterpunk cyberpunk postmodern gore showdown micro-opus with a pleasing sense of self-awareness, a healthy helping of humor, and a surprising surplus of heart.

Meatball Machine” tells the story of a doomed romance between two sweet but painfully awkward young people that ends in blood when they discover an invasion of alien parasites that infest human beings from the inside and transform them into "necro-borgs" (badass half-human half-machine undead humanoid assault weapons capable of mutations of a deadly sort).  The aliens use their human hosts to do battle with one another in a perverse extraterrestrial version of the ancient gladiatorial face-offs of Roman lore.  It's a slightly sleazy, playfully pulpy, manga-like movie gifting with an unexpected but happily welcome wealth of genuine tenderness and emotional sincerity.  The relationship between our two doomed lovers is achingly clumsy and beautifully human, laced with thick veins of internal turmoil and lonely sorrow.  The battle action is entertaining as it comes, loaded with more sharp objects of gallons of the red stuff than you can shake a stick at, all done with moderately skillful editing that at times is fantastic but at other times is instead disappointing.  The special effects and "necro-borg" design work is flamboyantly lo-fi but infinitely more entertaining than Tetsuo's machine/man mutants.  There's a lot of interesting stuff here and it's all got an amusingly bulky and stylishly comic book aura about it.  The imagery is fantastic, not despite the miniscule resources but, rather, for the better because of them.  While the alien parasites themselves are extremely weak the "necro-borgs" have a nice "gore vs. flesh" low-tech vibe to them that defies the popularity of the sleek and futuristic.  These deformed and mutilated robo-warriors simply are (as a certain chainsaw wielding Deadite-slayer we all know too well might say)... groovy.

The only real weaknesses of “Meatball Machine” in my estimation are the notable lack of extras which dramatically limits the scope of the film and gives it a no budget shot-in-someone's-backyard feel to it that's an absolute bitch to shake and the acting, which isn't awful.  In reality, some of it is actually very, very good.  But there are other times when the inexperience of some of these actors really shows through and bites you in the ass. Hard.

All in all, “Meatball Machine” is an endlessly entertaining, lighthearted, humanistic, splatterfest thrill ride version of “Tetsuo: The Iron Man” that foregoes that earlier film's black-tinged, brooding surrealism for a trashy, action-packed, blood-colored, low budget, absurdist, sci-fi kung-fu love story that's, most importantly, something that is so simple and so vital yet somehow so lacking in much of today's genre cinema.  Fun.  Dumb fun.  “Meatball Machine” is somehow both sleazy and adorable, but more than anything it is fun.  It's a super-gory hodgepodge tongue-in-cheek ultraviolent video game monster mash misfit movie with enough charm and silly sweetness to take down an alien-infested cyber-gladiator. In the end, this Machine is one damn tasty Meatball.

Interesting to note, by the way, this feature length version of “Meatball Machine” is actually a remake of a somewhat shorter film of the same name made in 1999 by the same filmmakers.

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"Meatbll Machine" 2005 Screenshot - Click to Enlarge - Severed Cinema

"Meatbll Machine" 2005 Screenshot - Click to Enlarge - Severed Cinema

"Meatbll Machine" 2005 Screenshot - Click to Enlarge - Severed Cinema

"Meatbll Machine" 2005 Screenshot - Click to Enlarge - Severed Cinema

"Meatbll Machine" 2005 Screenshot - Click to Enlarge - Severed Cinema

"Meatbll Machine" 2005 Screenshot - Click to Enlarge - Severed Cinema

"Meatbll Machine" 2005 Screenshot - Click to Enlarge - Severed Cinema

"Meatbll Machine" 2005 Screenshot - Click to Enlarge - Severed Cinema

"Meatbll Machine" 2005 Screenshot - Click to Enlarge - Severed Cinema

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3.22 Copyright (C) 2007 Alain Georgette / Copyright (C) 2006 Frantisek Hliva. All rights reserved."

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