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Overall Rating

Awesome: 11.11%
Worth A Look: 0%
Just Average: 11.11%
Pretty Crappy: 0%

1 review, 3 user ratings

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Samurai Princess
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by Jay Seaver

"Note: This movie contains no samurai, princesses, or delight; just gore."
1 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2009 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Why watch this crap? I ask not just because it's tacky exploitation that's bad for you, but because it's not even ably made bad exploitation. The acting is terrible, the director can't even frame a shot properly, and the action, for all the lovingly realized gore it leads to, is not exciting. Even if you've got very specific violent cinema fetishes, there's probably a movie or five out there that can serve them better.

Samurai Princess is one of those movies that functions mainly as a violence delivery system. There is a basic story, about a girl (Aino Kishi, whose character despite the title is neither a samurai nor a princess) hunting down the pair of cyborg lunatics who slaughtered her classmates to create "art", but she herself is being hunted by agents of some sort, as she herself has been made into a cyborg and that sort of body modification is illegal. Helping her is Gekko (Dai Mizuno), a guitar-toting ex-agent also looking to find the killers, ever since they murdered his sister, and willing to work with a cyborg to do it.

Yoshihiro Nishimura handles the the gore effects for Samurai Princess; from his recent ubiquity, he must be Japan's equivalent of KNB FX, providing services to movies as slick as L: Change the World and as slapdash as, well, Samurai Princess. Still, it should be no surprise that the blood, guts, and weaponized prostheses are some of the very best things that the movie has to offer. It's not his best work, but when director Kengo Kaji needs a gross-out, the scene is not likely to fall short for mechanical reasons. Those wanting to see the human body mutilated in a variety of creative and fantastical ways won't come away disappointed that there wasn't enough or that it was done inexpertly.

The problem, of course, is everything else. While it's certainly possible that director Kengo Kaji and scriptwriter Sotaro Hayashi worked out a detailed mythology and setting before they even considered how much it would cost to make this thing, it certainly feels like the rest of the movie came about by taking a small budget, subtracting how much Nishimura and his crew would cost, and then trying to figure out how they could shoot the movie on the pocket change that remained. The movie takes place in a world that is samurai-era when convenient, but has advanced cybernetics - although that's about the only sign of there being any sort of industrial infrastructure. Most of the movie takes place in the woods, except when they need a little more room for a fight scene and find an empty warehouse. Costumes and props appear to be whatever was found in the cast & crew's closets or could be picked up at a yard sale, and certainly don't add up to a convincing fantasy world.

I don't mean to hold the film's low budget against it. I respect those who overcome limited resources; when a talented filmmaker manages that, the good stuff dominates the bad. But there's a difference between something being inexpensive and cheap, and Samurai Princess feels cheap. The actors either rant or put on a stone face, but give their characters no individual personality. The backstory we hear is a bland mess. The cinematography is sloppy. Kaji and company take the mayhem for granted, to the point where it's not long before finding a pile of limbs and organs is merely repulsive without being thrilling, shocking, or making us feel anything about the villains who made it happen. And the action is often pretty dreadful - while the construction of the combatants and the carnage in their wake is done well enough, what goes on never looks like an actual fight.

Admittedly, a festival like Fantasia is perhaps the worst possible place to see something like "Samurai Princess". Seen on its own, it's maybe an amusing piece of insanity; seen at about the same time as things like "Hard Revene, Milly" and "Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl", it's the sort of thing that makes decent movies look good and good movies look great.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=18988&reviewer=371
originally posted: 08/27/09 23:11:16
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: New York Asian Film Festival 2009 For more in the New York Asian Film Festival 2009 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Fantasia Festival For more in the 2009 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/04/11 brian Gleefully gory for its own sake, monumentally stupid, unwatchable. 1 stars
5/11/10 porfle Low-budget fun. 3 stars
10/05/09 brnybngs the reviewer didn't get it - this is gore fun at its finest. 5 stars
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Directed by
  Kengo Kaji

Written by
  Kengo Kaji
  Sôtarô Hayashi

  Aino Kishi
  Dai Mizuno
  Asuka Kataoka
  Mao Shiina
  Mitsuru Karahashi

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