Machi Action (Review)
Written by Giddens Ko
Directed by Jeff Chang
Machi Action is a hilarious tale of a tokusatsu hero actor who is replaced and must find a new purpose in life. The film will resonate for anyone who has lost a job and struggled through the uncomfortable period of trying to readjust their life to the new actuality. Unfortunately thanks to the Great Recession, far too many of us have experienced that reality.
A unique film in the tokusatsu genre due to the focus on the actors and decisions behind the series, instead of just a parade of easily replaceable teenage heroes. Machi Action covers all the bases, from the lame effects to generic monsters to shows growing stale due to lack of drama and repetitiveness. The visuals are largely inspired from the various Kamen Rider series, with bits of Super Sentai and Ultraman thrown in for good measure.
The success of Machi Action is due to the mix of Tie Nan’s employment struggles and the tokusatsu genre humor. The balance keeps the film grounded enough for you to feel for the character while providing plenty of joke fodder of not only the effects heroes shows, but the entertainment industry in general. 10 years and a ratings nosedive cause Tie Nan to be on the unemployment line, the hero fighting his greatest battle, trying to stay relevant in a world that has moved on. As an ongoing plot thread shows, modern children have changed, and the show’s greatest failure is being stagnant instead of moving with them. People fear change, and it’s all too easy to get stuck in a routine that becomes a rut. But the longer you put off the inevitable, the bigger the pain will be when things are finally altered. Had Space Hero Fly kept up with the times there would have been no danger, but no one looked at the big picture.
The struggles of Tie Nan becomes the struggles of everyone to adapt and change with what life gives you, while still living up to your principles and doing what you believe in. There is always the danger of someone newer and younger coming in to replace you. But don’t give up the fight!
Space Hero Fly’s reign on Taiwanese tv is coming to a close. With dismal ratings and the show being continued only due to the station owner’s wishes, it has become a drag on the whole channel. New company president Su Ying Ying, the daughter of the owner, decides the show needs a revamp, and thanks to the help of a Japanese consultant named Mr. Sanada, soon everything is updated.
Space Hero Fly is out, replaced by the much cooler Space Hero Face. Played by arrogant singer FACE, who is decked out in Japanese pretty boy makeup and speaks dismissively to Tie Nan. Space Hero Fly is killed off, Tie Nan finding it difficult to even play his final scene without resorting to ridiculousness.
After he’s out, his character is killed and all the marketing turns into Space Hero Face, and the fans quickly evaporate. Tie’s friend Monster also leaves the show (he’s the guy who plays all the monsters), but he wisely started a noodle shop with his pay (though even that’s failing!)
Tie Nan finds himself typecasted and his entire acting experience is based on over-exaggerated tokusatsu movement, which looks ridiculous when done in all the other contexts. There are some hilarious montages as Tie Nan is fired again and again. Eventually, desperation leads him to get a role in a tokusatsu movie that Tie fails to note all the sketchiness about. Because it’s one of those porno tokusatsu parodies! Tie is unable to perform here, but the ridiculousness of the whole concept just gets stranger and stranger. It’s also spot on, having suffered through enough of the weirdo versions of the tokusatsu concepts to spot common elements. Events come to a fold where Tie Nan can finally become the hero he was born to play, but is filled with real life danger.
One of the better parts of Machi Action is that despite FACE being a giant douche when he’s first introduced, he grows into his role as hero and role model for children. The revamp improved the Space Hero franchise enough that even Tie Nan and Monster watch it despite their experiences.
The show lasted so long because owner Su Wu Xiong believed the station had a duty to put on morally uplifting programming. A running theme in Machi Action is being responsible for your actions. As kids no longer watch the show, kids in Taiwan are seen to be happy about violence and robberies, finding it cool. When Tie Nan and Monster finally find their niche selling junk on a home shopping channel, Tie Nan faces consequences in real life from unhappy customers, losing respect for himself and quitting the job. A running segment through the film is a villain who robs because he’s disillusioned from the hero shows and wants the villains to win. It turns into a battle of the future of children of Taiwan, will they go for the flash in the pan villain who makes evil cool, or for the classic hero Space Hero Fly? Just remember the oft-repeated words of our hero: “Spacehero never dies!”
Rated 8/10 (flames, goons, producer, Monster’s wife, cameo, protein, cameo, cameo)
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