This movie is stupid.
Available in Canada, the United States, and maybe some other countries. Approximately 90 minutes.
High school girls, Sakura, Asuka, Miku, and Fuyumi have formed a film club called High Kick Angels with teacher Tanaka as the supervisor. They are filming a movie at an abandoned high school called Dragon May vs Angelica about…uh… martial arts expert treasure hunters who travel to a deserted high school to find…uh…zombies? Tanaka is playing one of the zombies. Filming has to stop when Sakura, who plays May, kicks Tanaka in the head for real for groping her during the zombie attack. Back in the club room, Sakaru is unapologetic about kicking him for real, though she is about as upset at him for including zombies in the production as she is about the groping. Without commenting her accusation, Tanaka throws his weight around, claiming that zombies will bring in the money, that he was the one who got them permission to film in the abandoned high school in the first place, that their idea for a movie would not work due to their being unable to find someone to play Angelica the main antagonist, and that he will shut down the film club if Sakura steps out of line again. And then he leaves.
Fuyumi, the director and camera operator reveals that she had finally convinced her childhood friend and karate champion Maki to play Angelica. Maki had gotten suspended for getting in a street fight, and has rarely showed up for school since, but she will be showing up today. Sakura is overjoyed to meet this titan and to defeat her on film. She runs off to practice on the roof.
A humvee and a truck pull up to the school. A woman in red, a woman in gray, a man in white, and several men in black enter the school and start doing…stuff. Tanaka goes to talk to the people who are still outside. He gets punched in the throat almost immediately. Fuyumi, Miku, and Asuka notice Tanaka on the ground outside and try to call Sakura, but there is no phone signal and the internet is down. They are terrified, but Fuyumi also worries that Sakura will do something crazy. Sakura, for her part, had witnessed the attack from the rooftop and, having mixed up her own identity with that of May, speculates that these bad guys could be Angelica’s henchmen.
The bad guys, led by the woman in red, walk through the school, attack any zombie extras who were still in the school, set up headquarters in what I guess is the teachers’ lounge, and set off looking for usb drives that are apparently hidden in the school.
Fuyumi, Miku, and Asuka try to find Sakura, only to see her sneaking up on a group of around eight bad guys from another part of the building. Fuyumi faints from terror, but Sakura is able to fend off all of the bad guys for several minutes. Unfortunately, she gets exhausted from one too many hits, but who comes to her rescue? Of course, Maki, who just walked in out of nowhere and kicks the bad guys in the head. Sakura is happy not so much that Maki has rescued her, but that Angelica has graced her with her presence.
Maki takes Sakura to the film club room, where Fuyumi, Miku, and Asuka had been hiding. Fuyumi is sort of able to snap Sakura out of her delusion by saying “cut,” but it is only temporary. Sakura believes that, by filming their fight against the bad guys, they can negate the reality of the situation and win using film logic. Miku and Asuka are somehow on board with this, but Maki asks an even more terrified than ever Fuyumi if the other three are stupid. Maki agrees to lose the movie fight, but says that Sakura needs more practice in real life, and challenges her to a fight. Keep in mind, they are still in the school. Sakura tries to attack Maki, but one punch sends Sakura to the floor. Sakura is more star-struck than angry or humbled.
Asuka tries to get Maki to stop, but a contemptuous Maki challenges her to a fight as well. Miku merely says that her skills are simply that of a ballet dancer. Dismissing the others as mere amateurs, Maki says that only solution is for her to escape and call the police, but Fuyumi convinces her to stay so they can try to work their way out of this together.
There is little getting around it. The main audience for this movie is probably those who wanted to see panty shots. And there is some of that, though not quite as much as there theoretically could have been. I know that it may come across as defensive for me to say that I barely paid attention to that stuff, but that is true. That said, while lead actress Kanon Miyahara was eighteen at the time that the movie was released, I cannot guarantee that she was during the time of filming. Sort of like the first season of Elite. Ahem…
There had been precedent for this kind of movie, particularly with the film High Kick Girl in 2009 and Karate Girl in 2011. Those movies, however, had a rather dreary tone that I did not feel that the production earned, so they kind of bored me. Chocolate, they were not. In contrast, I enjoyed the light and comedic tone in this movie, which is not a sequel to either. It recognized the silliness of its foundations and leaned into it. The story is dumb, the script is rather slapdash, the characters seem to come from the mind of a child, and the acting is rather goofy. This is most apparent in the aforementioned main character of Sakura.
Sakura is sort of like if an imaginative child became a method actor. It is unclear whether the film is an excuse for her to act out her fantasies of being a martial artist or if she just ran with the role, but I am guessing the former. She starts having trouble distinguishing between herself and May, between real life and movie tropes. Fuyumi humors her for the most part, but Miku and Asuka seem to be under her spell, especially Asuka. Most of the characters are cartoonish and over the top, but Sakura is on a different level. The movie does not shy away from the notion that Sakura has…psychological problems that the attack on the school exacerbated. In a more serious movie, this may have been explored more deeply. In a more ambitious movie, this may be the jump-off point for some surreal stuff. In this movie, it is kind of treated as a joke. She makes big faces, says strange things, and takes Bruce Lee’s advice to feel instead of think way too far. At the same time, the movie is a little sympathetic, showing that there are worse things in the world than her delusions, that her supposed issues have helped her and her friends in the past, and that maybe that seemingly misplaced confidence can help them get out of this dangerous situation. After all, Sakura does not know martial arts, but May is an expert. While some may find her character to be annoying, I found her to be the what elevated the movie from cheap schlock to charming hilarity.
While I have featured a few martial arts movies in this series and will in the future, I am far from a martial arts movie buff. That said, despite its comedic tone, High Kick Angels as about as serious regarding its martial arts as its somber predecessors were. Aside from a few quirks here and there, the fight scenes are legit, largely free of any Jackie Chan-esque physical comedy. The characters who cannot fight avoid fighting. The characters who can fight are played by people who have experience. I believe that Kanon Miyahara had trained for ten years prior to the movie.
So, this movie is stupid and maybe a little sketchy. Still, I enjoyed it for non-sketchy reasons, and you might as well.
WTF ASIA 74: Too Many Ways to Be No. 1 (Hong Kong: 1997, approx. 91 minutes)
Available…uh…I dunno, maybe on a bootleg DVD from Chinatown.
WTF ASIA 75: The Seaside Village (South Korea: 1965, approx. 93 minutes)
On Wikipedia as The Sea Village
Available on Youtube as The Seashore Village
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