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Machi Action

North American Premiere
  • Taiwan
  • 2013
  • 96 mins
  • DCP
  • Mandarin
  • English (subtitles)

“Clever, playful and heartfelt… wittily entertaining meta-fiction that turns out surprisingly poignant” – Gabriel Chong, MOVIEXCLUSIVE

Even heroes get knocked down sometimes. For many years now, Taiwanese actor Tienan has played the role he was born to play. Each week, he slips into the costume of Superhero Fly, an intergalactic champion of justice in the tradition of Japan’s Ultraman and Kamen Rider. And each weak, his best buddy Monster squirms into the costume of, well, whatever lurid space creature Superhero Fly will ultimately prevail against. Superhero Fly has a special place in the hearts of kids throughout Taiwan, and in the heart of the aged and unwell network owner who brought Tienan on board. The owner’s daughter, however, is now taking command of the network and her ruthless pursuit of ratings demand a reboot for show. Enter too-cool young pop star Face as the new space hero, exit Tienan and Monster with an undignified thud. Mind you, if Tienan was born to play a hero on screen, you can be sure he’ll put up a fight in real life!

The film and TV genre the Japanese call tokusatsu — you know, giant monsters and masked space heroes stomping on miniature municipalities — has spread across Asia over the years, and it’s the point of departure for this superior-grade Taiwanese comedy that takes aim at the genre’s over-the-top tropes and antics, at the TV industry and at the absurd ups and downs of a performing artist’s life. MACHI ACTION was a huge hit at its home turf’s box office early this year, and its not hard to see why. Director Jeff Chang shows remarkable promise with his dynamic debut, milking his milieu for visual gags while making the most of a clever, racy and yet very humane script by Gidden Ko, the talent behind YOU ARE THE APPLE OF MY EYE (Fantasia 2012) and THE KILLER WHO NEVER KILLS. Pop star/model Bolin Chen pulls off the lead with verve and charisma, finding great comedic counterweight in Qiu Yan-xiang’s goofy, grumpy, indelicate Monster. And superfans of tokusatsu, take heed, the filmmakers don’t overlook the goldmine of good fun to be had poking around the genre, on the screen and off-camera!

— Rupert Bottenberg