"...the script relegates Yuki from 'Princess Blade' to 'Princess Housewife'..."
Princess Blade (2001)
Director: Shinsuke Sato
Writers: Kazuo Kamimura, Kazuo Koike, Kei Kunii, Shinsuke Sato
Producer: Taka Ichise
Cast: Hideaki Ito, Yumiko Shaku, Shiro Sano, Yoichi Numata, Kyusaku Shimada, Yoko Maki
Running Time: 93 min.
Plot: See review below.
Availability: This title is available at HKflix.com
MAIROSU'S REVIEW: In future, Japan is ruled by a monarchy, which uses the assassin clan of Takemikazuchi as their enforcers. One of the assassins, Yuki, the last representative of the original Takemikazuchi bloodline, discovers that her mother has been assassinated as a result of internal complot, and turns against her compatriots. Seeking revenge, Yuki runs into Takashi, a rebellious young man with troubled past. Together they try to pursue their prime goal - vengeance.
Princess Blade (Shurayuki-Hime), based on a comic book by Kazuo Kamimura and Kazuo Koike and also a remake of a more celebrated film with same Japanese name but different translation called ³Lady Snowblood², is frankly a disappointment. The film starts promising, with a terrific action sequence which demonstrates the combat power and battle prowess of the Takemikazuchi assassins (they all use swords rather than firearms, which adds to excitement), and builds on to what could have been a great adventure film with an entertaining climax. However, soon after Yuki meets an old friend of her mother's, Kuka, and discovers the truth, film starts its slow decay. The turning point (for the worse) of the film is when Yuki, after an exhilarating battle and escape, is unawaringly rescued by Takashi, a rebel-turned-gas station worker. What ensues is a torrid half an hour of meaningless analysis of Takashi's character and his past - the script relegates Yuki from "Princess Blade" to "Princess Housewife" as Takashi takes the center stage and bogs the film down to a snail's pace, while Yuki is recovering from her wounds and coming to terms that violence isn't really the best solution for everything in life. This movie could have easily profited from using Takashi as a mere support character, not a centrepiece, and just plain concentrating on Yuki's quest with more action scenes involved - this way, it's a letdown from what could have been, a great action - adventure flick.
The positives in this movie are beautiful photography, as the film is mostly set on the countryside, in forests and hills. We also briefly get to see the modern cities and railways of futuristic Japan, which are also quite decently done (there is a gentle hint of Bladerunner in that city landscape) and could have managed with more than few minutes of footage dedicated to them. Another strong trump card of Princess Blade is the action choreography, which is orchestrated by Donnie Yen, the veteran of Hong Kong and Chinese cinema who has names such as Blade II, Moonlight Express and Iron Monkey standing on his resume - complementing them are the very good special effects are work of Shinji Higuchi, who spent most of his career bringing Godzilla and similar big monsters to life on the big screen. The cast does a decent job as well - Yumiko Shaku, a pop singer, model and TV personality in real life, is fine as Yuki in her film debut, and Hideaki Ito is solid (if redundant) as Takashi. However, the main villain, Byakurai (played by Kyusaku Shimada), doesn't impress in limited screen time - the female assassin Soma (whose name I couldn't find on the internet after some intense searching) has a better take at being evil and her swordfight with Yuki is one of the better parts of the film.
Overall, this one comes short of recommendation - it has too few action sequences for a good action film (which is a waste as those are excellent), and it's too slow moving and shallow for anything else. If you can, watch the battles only, and avoid the film as a whole.
MAIROSU'S RATING: 3/10