Director: Ryuhei Kitamura
Cast: Aya Ueto, Kenji Kohashi, Yuma Ishigaki
Synopsis: Japan is under threat from the conflicts between a number of warlords. One man is sen ton a mission to train a team of assassins to take out these men and restore peace to the country. He raises ten children to fulfil this mission, the fastest of whom is a young girl named Azumi. When introduced to the outside world, however, does she have the constitution to complete her mission.
Following on from my enjoyment of Battle Royale last week, I returned to Gametraders and picked up a copy of this, another Japanese cult classic. Though the two films share some level of similarity (children made to kill other human beings), these are overall very different films. The setting for Azumi is more of a Feudal Japan type era, where assassins, ninjas, and Samurai are not unfamiliar sights. Even the styling of the fights is exceptionally different, with a stronger focus on wire-fu and camera trickery. About the only other similarity between the two is that they both feature copious amounts of blood.
Unfortunately, another area in which the two films differ is in story quality. Not that there is nothing necessarily wrong with the story of Azumi, but it is far from being anything unique or special. She is trained to be a killer, she interacts with the outside world and learns of a different way of life that excludes violence, yet it is far from a spoiler to =suggest that events draw her back into the life for which she originally trained. This is not to suggest that there are no interesting subplots (one character in particular provided his own special quality of lunatic to proceedings to emerge as the “big bad” of the film), but after a few well executed scenes, the film is very much a lot of what we have seen before.
The true strength of the film is in the battles, and the visually spectacular way in which these were filmed, however this tool has been seen extensively in modern Asian cinema. Sitting down to think about the film afterwards, I could not help but feel that it was largely style over substance. I enjoyed the time that I spent with the film, however there was nothing solid that I could enjoy and take away from it.
Cinema today is filled with a number of strong female leads. Azumi is not one of them. She is a product of her situation, and never really rises above this to control her own world and destiny. Watch it for an enjoyable two hours, then feel free to forget!!
3 stars out of 5