Worth A Look: 19.51%
Just Average: 10.98%
Pretty Crappy: 1.22%
4 reviews, 58 user ratings
by Matt Mulcahey
Ever notice the more an Asian action film insists itís about peace and honor, the more severed limbs, blood-spurting decapitations and general carnage that movie contains?Azumi is a prime example of this paradox, featuring a team of young assassins trained since childhood to ensure peace in feudal Japan by brutally killing many, many, many people.
"A tale of peace, honor and....allright, it's really about ass kicking."
Actually, the youthful samurais (what the hell is the plural of samurai anyway?) initially intend to butcher just three warmongering warlords. However, by the time the last drop of blood has spewed like a volcano out of a gaping neck wound it seems like these barely-past-puberty assassins have killed off half the population of Japan.
These teen killing machines have been trained since childhood on a remote mountaintop to be slicing, dicing practitioners of badassery, molded under the tutelage of a warrior named Gessai (Yoshio Harada), who took on the task after his son was killed in a civil war between warlord factions.
But this dude isnít your usual kung-fu movie master.
He ignores the pleas of innocent peasants being slaughtered.
He leaves members of his samurai brood behind to die if they happen to be struck by as much as a single poisoned ninja throwing star.
When you get right down to it, heís pretty much the biggest prick in the whole movie.
So it ainít exactly heartbreaking when the titular character (played by Aya Ueto with an alluring mixture of swift lethality and pouty, knee-high wearing sexiness) leaves her mentor behind and strikes out on her own to even the score with a particularly vicious warlord and his crew of mercenaries.
There is a lot to like about Azumi.
The fight sequences are dazzling set pieces drenched in gleeful gore-dripping excess. The camerawork is full of crane-swooping, dolly track-gliding virtuosity. The mind-numbingly bloody finale, featuring Ueto and a flower-sniffing killer-for-hire (picture Boy George with a samurai sword) mowing down faceless extras by the dozens on a collision course for each other, is one of the most incredible mano a mano showdowns in recent memory.
But thereís also a lot not to like about this latest effort from Versus director Ryuhei Kitamura.
For one thing, itís too damn long. Two hours of kung fu, even good kung fu, is a bit much stomach when the pace is this slack.
And who wrote the subtitles? Itís pretty obvious from the awkward phrasing it wasnít an American, or at least not one with a firm grasp of English. Whoever it was also seems to think that us Yanks use some variation of ďguyĒ in every sentence.
Thatís ridiculous, guy.
But the grandest Azumi faux paus lies in its tone.
This is a comic-bookish, blood-spewing, sword-swinging extravaganza. With its poison-star throwing ninji (what the hell is the plural of ninja anyway?) and bizarre Boy George mercenaries, Azumi is about as rife for somber pretense as a sword-and-loin cloth classic like The Beastmaster.
Yet director Kitamura seems to think heís fashioning a carnage-drenched dramatic epic in the vein of Braveheart.If your movie is really about nothing more than ass kicking, donít pretend thereís some broader theme.
Just give me the ass kicking.
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originally posted: 03/27/04 04:36:24
|OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2004 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Philadelphia Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.