Fantasia 2013 Review: MACHI ACTION, Heartfelt Hero Worship From Taiwan
Tienan is Superhero Fly, a costumed hero much in the tradition of Japan's Tokusatsu shows like Ultraman and Kamen Rider. He has played this role for a number of years now. Alongside him is his best friend Monster, who gets into the costume of whatever space monster Superhero Fly will fight that week.
Tienan's biggest fan remains the network owner who brought Tienan on board. However, he is getting old and unwell, and his daughter is returning from America and will take over the network. The ratings for Superhero Fly have been dropping over the years, so she demands a reboot for the show. She brings in an expert from Japan. And then she brings in a young pop star named Face as the new space hero. Tienan and Monster find themselves dismissed from the show and looking for work.
Not unlike his superhero persona, will Tienan be able to rise from this defeat and prevail? He will have to dig deep down and rediscover why he became a superhero in the first place to do so.
Machi Action is a heartfelt and sweet dramedy that does not get too syrupy. There is a love interest that blossoms carefully throughout the film, but is far enough in the background so it does not take away from it. The story also has a tremendous amount of humor, and at times can be quite racy. After fruitlessly looking for work, Tienan finally lands a role on another film, yet the action scenes in this one are definitely not for kids. And speaking of action, there is plenty of Tokusatsu action to satisfy any fan of the genre.
The bulk of the humor lies in the relationship between Tienan and Monster, played by Qiu Yan-xiang. He fills the role of sidekick so well he nearly steals the show from pop-star Bolin Chen. Credit should go to Gidden Ko for a script that goes just beyond the tropes of dramedy, yet still keeps its heart in place.
I was also impressed with the direction of Jeff Chang. For a debut feature film, he and his team do a remarkable job of craftsmanship. It looks very polished and bears no indication that this is a debut feature. Chang is certainly one to keep an eye out for on the Taiwanese film circuit. He proves capable of handling the quiet and emotionally laden moments, then ramping it up for the action scenes.
Machi Action is an impressive debut, and a very funny and heartwarming hero tale.