Friday, August 15, 2008

The Princess Blade review

Adapted from the manga of the same name, “Shurayukihime” and inspired by the classic, Lady Snowblood¸ The Princess Blade is simply a neat popcorn flick. Containing great fight sequences courtesy of Donnie Yen choreography, it is another decent offering of the swordsplay/martial arts revival occurring in Japan right now.

In an unnamed land in the future, the country is ruled by a seemingly cruel dictatorship as rebels attempt to overthrow it. A group of top-notch assassins from the House of Takemikazuchi were hired to suppress these rebels, but as demand declined they turned into professional killers willing to murder anyone for money. The last surviving heir to the Takemikazuchi family, Yuki (Yumiko Shaku) discovers the leader of the group is responsible for the death of her parents and leaves, vowing revenge. The house sends assassins to kill anyone who leaves, so as a result, Yuki finds herself pursued by her former partners and is forced to seek shelter, befriending a young man (Hideaki Ito) and his sister.

It is natural to compare this film with Kitamura’s works as they are the recent top swordplay films in Japan. The Princess Blade bares many similarities to Azumi (released two years later), such as the female leads, stylized swordplay and the theme of revenge. In The Princess Blade, the world never feels authentic as there were only about four locations in the entire film, most of which is in the forest or a house. With the premise of a futuristic dictatorship, the film is set-up with more than it actually explores and generally ignores the big picture of the story, but doesn’t effectively use the small story to fill in for it. The other strong story telling fault of film is its failure to connect with the audience. Personally, the story felt empty until the ending scenes. Both keeping their similar pasts mysteries, the interaction between the Yuki and Takashi (Ito) feels forced and meaningless.

However, Donnie Yen choreographed the action very well. With a beautiful opening involving a hit the group performs with neat bits of slow motion, The Princess Blade promises and delivers entertaining action. The action isn’t as eccentric as Kitamura’s nor does it occur as often because of the attempted story, but it action does satisfy with a blend of modern stylized combat and classic jidai-geki simplicity. The action also holds a bit of realism involving the outcomes of fights, a welcome addition to create tension.

The cast was average with Yumiko Shaku in the lead role and Hideaki Ito as the main supporting actor. They fit the roles fine, but they didn’t contain enough charisma to draw in the audience. The lead character is not explored and Shaku does not really convey her stolid character’s feelings to add some depth. Ito does a better job and I found his scenes to hold my attention but his character’s relationship with Yuki (which is key) fails to work.

Overall, Princess is a good action film that suffers from plot problems. It deserves credit for the attempts to add substance, but it ultimately hurts the film because it detracts from the only positive element, the action.


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