Ladies and gentlemen, I have discovered the Ed Wood of kung fu movie directors. High Kick Girl is such a stunningly inept movie I simply could not take my eyes off it. I refused to believe it had actually been allowed to exist.
I think I may have gone into this with a number of false assumptions. I had assumed that this was a professional studio film intended to make a star out of Rina Takeda. Instead, it appears to have been a show reel a couple of over the hill martial artists put together, one with delusions of being a movie star, and the other with delusions of being a writer-director. They seem to have filmed a bunch of fights, retconned in a narrative about a heroic karate teacher saving his student from a group of people you can tell are evil because they only wear black, and then stumbled across a cute girl in one of the auditions, and realized they could actually land distribution if they pulled a con job on audiences and studios and pretended like she was the star of the movie and the movie was in any way about her.
So we get her in two big action scenes early on before the movie abruptly becomes entirely about her teacher, played with one facial expression by a guy who clearly can fight, but makes Sam Worthington look like Peter O'Toole. Presumably after a rough cut was screened they realized the audience might be mad if the heroine spent the rest of the movie as a damsel in distress, so they give her a particularly terrible extra fight, and then reshoot the final fight a little bit so she can finish off the main bad guy after the teacher has already finished him off once.
River City Ransom had a less obviously ad libbed story. Fucking Double Dragon was The Wire compared with this shit. There are literally entire scenes with several minutes of everyone standing around apparently waiting for somebody to figure out a way to advance the completely arbitrary plot. In awesomely unspecific fashion, the entire plot is driven by something the teacher did fifteen years ago, which the evil black clothed karate faction has been angry about for all the time. Apparently too lazy to look in the yellow pages.
I'm unsure if the director was also the choreographer, but he might be a halfway decent one if he had the slightest idea how to direct or edit. I will grant he avoids being astoundingly incoherent (see Donnie Yen's unwatchable directorial efforts) but he does this by filming everything in extreme slow motion, occasionally replaying not particularly great shots in even slower motion. I presume the intention was to show us that he's a fucking idiot and did everything full contact even though we have a hundred years of figuring out how to make fights look like they're real even though they aren't to avoid filling hospitals with battered stunt men. (I seem to recall a Twitch article about angry stunt men complaining about this, the first sign that the trailers were a lie.) But the actual effect is to make everything look really staged, since shit moves so slow you can see dudes waiting for a hit, or just standing around waiting for their cue. Special shout out to the baffling editing, which often doesn't bother cutting away from slow motion footage of nothing happening at all -- maybe at the beginning of the shot someone falls down, and at the end, that person gets kicked in the head, but in between is a full minute of them lying on the floor doing absolutely nothing in slow motion! Jesus Christ! Coupled with such astounding cinematic techniques as long shots of clouds or stock footage of city exteriors to indicate transitions between scenes, and you have a non-stop laugh riot!
I do hope a lot of these fighters manage to land further work in decent movies. Even the world's worst karate teacher -- the entire plot hinges on him being such a terrible fucking teacher he couldn't control his hotheaded student or even be fucked to explain what the point of the shit he was teaching her was -- would probably be an effective stunt double. Everyone involved deserves better than to be in this heap of shit. Good god, I hope the director never works again. But he's so singularly clueless is it almost inevitable, even if he films it himself with the camera he bought from whatever misguided foreign licensing deal led to this showing up on Netflix streaming.