High Kick Angels (Japan 2014)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 12/20/14
Writer: Fuyuhiko Nishi
Cast: Kanon Miyahara, Kaede Aono, Mayu Kawamoto, Risako Ito, Hirona Nagashima, Shingo Koyasu, cameo by Chisato Morishita

"Don't think. Feel."

More high kicking fun from the writer of "High Kick Girl!" (2009) and "Karate Girl" (2011), but handled by a more experienced director. The premise is absurdly simplistic: A group of girls are making a kung fu zombie movie at an abandoned school building, and then a bunch of criminal thugs (led by glamour model Chisato Morishita) show up and tear the building apart looking for some hidden cash. The girls take a pretty hefty beating from the bad guys and two of them are taken hostage. Against incredible odds, the three remaining girls have to find the strength and courage to take on the entire gang in order to rescue their friends.

Yes, it's totally stupid and the production values aren't that great, but it's overflowing with girlish charm and features some wonderfully executed fight scenes. The main character is a delightfully goofy girl named Sakura (cute Kanon Miyahara) who idolizes Bruce Lee and fantasizes about becoming her alter-ego, Dragon Mei. She is an excellent fighter who specializes in high kicks, and she's responsible for all of the panty flashing in the film. She's also a good comedic actress, and her nerdy charm is extremely endearing and adorable. Her rival is an older student named Maki (stunning Kaede Aono), and it's unclear why she happens to be at the school (the complete lack of subtitles doesn't help any). She is an outstanding fighter and she doesn't pull her punches at all. Her fight scenes with veteran fighter Shingo Koyasu are brutally intense, hard hitting, and breathtaking. She's also incredibly attractive and has amazing hair. The other good fighter in the group is played by Mayu Kawamoto, and she delivers some excellent close quarters karate work, focusing on locks, blocks, and punches. The other girl worth mentioning is Fuyumi (gorgeous Risako Ito), who is the director, script writer, and camera person for the zombie film. She is a charming actress and absolutely stunning. She reminds me of a teenage Michelle Reis. Bad girl Chisato Morishita is pretty, but she wears ridiculous feather eyelashes for some reason. They're distracting and it's hard to take her seriously.

Without subtitles it's a little hard to follow at times, but the girls are charming enough that time passes quickly between action pieces. The fight scenes are quite good, but the camera work is shaky and has a hard time tracking the action. Fortunately, the takes are long and you get to see everything that's going on. Kanon Miyahara is certainly the most active and bombastic one in the group, and while her execution and timing are superb, her hits tend to look a bit soft. That's not a criticism, just simply an observation. It's probably more obvious because Kaede Aono hits so much harder, and Mayu Kawamoto's hits are pretty solid as well. It's definitely a guilty pleasure, and if you're looking for a martial arts film with cute Japanese girls, short skirts, and high kicks, then you're bound to be pleased. Otherwise, there's little reason to check it out.