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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 19.51%
Just Average: 10.98%
Pretty Crappy: 1.22%
Sucks: 0%

4 reviews, 58 user ratings

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by Brian McKay

"Swordplay over Substance, but who's complaining?"
4 stars

Anyone who knows me or my reviews, knows that if there's one thing I love to see in a Samurai movie more than a beautiful Japanese girl, it's a beautiful Japanese girl with a BIG ASS SWORD. Toting a katana that's almost as tall as she is, titular heroin Azumi (stunning newcomer Aya Ueto) carves her way through a body count that rivals any three average samurai flicks. Unfortunately, she leaves nearly as many lines of filler dialogue in her wake as she does corpses.

The plot of Azumi is overly simplistic, even for a chop-sake' flick. Found on the road as a child, as she stands over the body of her fallen mother, Azumi is taken in by a wandering Samurai who is already trailing a ragtag collection of orphans behind him. Several years later, the master and his ten orphans (all of whom have now reached adulthood, if just barely) are living in a remote mountain dojo far away from the concerns of the outside world, where they have been trained as assassins since childhood. It's a kind of idyllic setting, where Azumi is loved and respected both as the "sister" of the group, and their greatest warrior.

But alas, the day finally comes when their master informs them that it is time for them to fulfill the mission he has trained them for - the assassination of three evil warlords who threaten the peace of the Shogunate. Before they depart on their mission, they are ordered to team up into pairs - and then to try and kill each other. The harsh logic behind this is that those who do not have the heart or the skill to kill their opponent would be a liability to their mission. Azumi and four others emerge, victorious but heartbroken.

From then on, the troupe of assassins pursue their targets, leaving plenty of slain henchman in their path, and occasionally losing one of their own. They are afforded a moment of leisure when they meet a traveling group of entertainers, and Azumi befriends the lovely Yae (Aya Okamoto), who tries to make Azumi more feminine and convince her to go back and live with her in Yae's home village. She essentially becomes the mother/older sister surrogate that Azumi has lacked most of her life, having grown up the lone female in a sausage-fest dojo.

While Azumi longs to leave the life of a killer behind and go live with Yae, she is forced to take up the sword repeatedly, saving Yae from two rape attempts before deciding that she must return to her companions and complete her mission. This leads to one of the biggest sword brawls I've ever seen in a Samurai flick (and I've seen a lot of them). This high-energy slayfest, bolstered by Kitarmura's explosive directorial style and one or two clever camera gimmicks, is a satisfying climax to a film that has already featured at least half a dozen solid action scenes. The final boss fight, with a maniacal, effemenite, rose-carrying assassin is particularly fun, since the guy's been so damn annoying up to then that you've been waiting for Azumi to carve him up like a Thanksgiving turkey (or whatever the closest Japanese equivalent is).

Unfortunately, it's not all blood and roses. While the storytelling is certainly more engaging than Kitamura's random, video game-like approach to narrative in Versus, it's nowhere near as good as the cleverly written dialogue between the two engaging leads of Aragami. Much of the dialouge in between ass kickings is juvenille humor, hammy villains in plotting, or the pretty-headed Azumi engaging in some shallow-end philosophizing. "Where do the stars go during the day?" she ponders, gazing up at the sky. Who cares, sweetheart, just go do what you do best - killing mofos.

While Aya Ueto is certainly a damn fine looking woman, and exhibits an easy confidence in both her acting abilities and the sword coreography, she's just a little too cute and cuddly and kawaii. While it's a joy to watch her cut up about 100 guys, she just doesn't bring the haunted angst or steely-eyed determination of a Meiko Kaji (Lady Snowblood) or Yumiko Shaku (The Princess Blade) to the part. Subsequently, Azumi lacks the substance of either of those films, and while the action is certainly up to snuff, and there are a few serviceable moments of drama and pathos scattered througout (although they are almost drowned out by a heavy-handed score), we just never get a deep enough glimpse at Azumi's soul, or the inner demons that drive her.

All flaws aside, Kitamura certainly shows progress as an action director, and with ARAGAMI he's shown that he can combine stunning swordplay with a well-constructed narrative. AZUMI is much more of the former than the latter, but still quite watchable - although during subsequent viewings, you probably won't really care if you have the subtitles turned on or not.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8553&reviewer=258
originally posted: 04/24/04 16:06:58
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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.

User Comments

9/20/12 Golden J. Williams Jr. Azumi and the village of bandits fight scene was AWESOME! 5 stars
6/08/09 irwandiaz is there another movies like this?? 5 stars
11/01/08 Max Sloppy but fun 3 stars
2/13/07 AJ Muller This flick will walk up and down your ass. More twisted beauty from Japan. 5 stars
11/23/06 William Goss Solid swordplay, but just not very fun. 3 stars
9/18/06 Aldo Good story Good Action Good characters. If only asian cinema would produce more of this 5 stars
8/16/06 eunice _16 its pretty nice cool, azumi was so cool and awesome 5 stars
1/23/06 pauleen grace cana i really love azumi,especially nachi 5 stars
11/16/05 Tom Warner Well worth watching!! 5 stars
10/13/05 stella may emuy i very much like this movie coz i like the way they act.alll i can say it's really beautifu 5 stars
8/02/05 mocks nice movie 2 stars
7/05/05 Alex Espectacular, maravillosa, fantastica 5 stars
3/25/05 fern buenafe i like it is very good!!! ive never seen anything like that film ever!! 5 stars
3/21/05 cherry awesome!! i like her hair! 5 stars
1/26/05 Engar Unquestionably one of the best martial arts films I've seen - I'm in Love!! 5 stars
1/17/05 kicelda moore excellent 5 stars
1/02/05 christopher rante azumi is cute and very nice the is great and full of actions 5 stars
12/10/04 icy nice movie 4 stars
11/16/04 corvair Best movie!! 5 stars
11/12/04 Sittie Aisha Mabaning the movie is good... the plot is something new... 5 stars
11/10/04 Sean Mesler I agree that this movie is one of the most exciting movies I have ever seen... 5 stars
11/10/04 Lia Love it.. Cool fight scenes! And great cast! :) 5 stars
11/05/04 chocoryou Bijomaru scares me. Cool! 5 stars
11/04/04 jorge cosgayon aya ueto is frikkin' perfect 5 stars
10/25/04 malcolm a fucking blast 5 stars
9/30/04 Wodzu Just great !!! 5 stars
9/27/04 David Levine I concur, it was simply awesome, she is awesome and the cinematograpy/direction is awesome. 5 stars
9/13/04 james i really love azumi....(aya ueto)....shes the best of the best the movie is bloody awesome! 5 stars
9/06/04 Jun Sorioso If you're looking for an action film or if you're an anime fan, this is the movie to watch! 5 stars
9/04/04 yoji mendoza whew,,,this is a great movie!!!! 5 stars
8/31/04 carlos very amusing... i like aya very much!!!! 5 stars
8/24/04 Janie Lim Few teenage stars can do the role of Azumi as will as Aya Ueto 5 stars
7/29/04 marlon satorre highly recomended 5 stars
7/26/04 djheart ramos this movie is terrible and amasing movie, i like it.,. 5 stars
7/23/04 Jann Well done, cliched action movie 4 stars
7/17/04 Larry K Great characters, great action, good story. The villains are more colorful than the heroes. 5 stars
6/26/04 Dann Carter Awesome,interesting,great action, a great samurai film !! better than Princess Blade 5 stars
6/15/04 rogelio monis jr. bloody, hip, and dvine. 5 stars
6/09/04 Joel Cabute none 5 stars
5/30/04 Mark Great movie, awesome mass battle at the end and the story is better then people say imo. 5 stars
5/25/04 Mia BEST samurai movie I've seen. Odagiri was real hot in there. SEXY!!! 5 stars
5/24/04 Calypsobreeze 1/2 hr too long, forget a plot or coherent ending, ok fights 3 stars
5/09/04 azia i wish i am azum 5 stars
4/06/04 Oktarina Angela Azumi Film Is a great samurai film i ever seen, I love Aya Ueto and Jo Odagiri 5 stars
3/08/04 DaveV Action scenes are good to very good. Great story. The villain in white is fun. 5 stars
3/07/04 Budi Purwito Great... and sweet. 5 stars
2/24/04 Moi SO GOOD see it NOW!!! the man in white with the rose is the BEST!!!! 5 stars
2/23/04 JVuong Awesome. Emotion and action. Almost made me cry :( 5 stars
2/20/04 EMMANUEL ARIAS Filled with emotions, scences that impress; And no need for nudity! Hollywood take notes 5 stars
2/18/04 cooper Interesting movie. Sword fight can get better. fast forward in the movie is too obvious. 4 stars
2/17/04 zola AWESOME!!! 5 stars
2/15/04 Daniel Feldman Kill Who? Forget Bill, this is where its at!!!!! 5 stars
2/14/04 ryan sobrevinas Azumi is a great action film. Loved every second of it! Aya Ueto is my new goddess!!! 4 stars
2/13/04 Jason Ashley While there is a lot of action, the great acting & story is what makes it amazing. 5 stars
2/11/04 James Highly recommended, Best action/violence ever as of female heroine. AAA+++ 5 stars
2/04/04 steve hill i love killing and this movie gave it to me 5 stars
2/01/04 Jens This blows the shit out of "Kill Bill!" Amazing 5 stars
1/24/04 Xander I'm completely blown away, easily one of the coolest movies I've seen in a long time.... 5 stars
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  21-Jul-2006 (NR)
  DVD: 07-Feb-2008



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