“Surprisingly decent, and much more assassin than geisha.”
Taking a minimalist approach to its plot, particularly for the first hour, it’s about Kotomi (Tsukui), who is on a quest to find the man (Kanai) who was responsible for killing her father (Nomura), a samurai who wanted to leave his sklls to her. To reach the killer, she has to battle her way through a series of lower-level minions, such as a pack of ninjas, a monk and Pocahontas [ok, that might be a stretch, but honestly, that was my first thought on seeing her]. However, after she has fought her way past these henchmen and henchwomen, to reach the boss level, she discovers that things might not quite be the way she always perceived them.
After a series of Japanese films where it seems the experience most required by the lead actress involved modeling bikinis, rather than combat, it was pleasant to discover Tsukui appeared to know her stuff. This is apparent, because Ohara, for the most part, also knows his, keeping the camera an adequate distance from the action, and allowing the battle to flow across the screen without excessive edits. It’s particularly impressive in the fight between Kotomi and the monk, where one shot in particular is remarkable for its length, approaching early Jackie Chan levels. It makes sense that Ohara also worked on the action in Onechanbara, another solid genre entry.
It’s not without mis-steps: the lighting is occasionally crappy, and the film grinds to a halt at the end for a massive glob of exposition, just when it should be rolling out of control. This is significantly better when it keeps the whole “plot” and “acting” thing to a minimum, and concentrates on what it does best: Tsukui kicking ass in a wide variety of ways, ranging from surreal battles with zombie-like creatures who can detach their heads for use as weapons, or rolling around in the mud with Pocahontas. Which gives me an idea for an entirely new series of ‘Disney Princess’ movies, but I digress. Anyway, at a brisk 78 minutes, this doesn’t waste much time, and was certainly of unexpected quality and volume, as far as the action goes.
Dir: Go Ohara
Star: Minami Tsukui, Shigeru Kanai, Masaki Nomura, Nao Nagasawa
a.k.a. Geisha vs. Ninja