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Christopher Webster [Film Festival 06.23.09] movie review horror action

Year: 2008
Directors: Kengo Kaji
Writers: Kengo Kaji / Sôtarô Hayashi
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: agentorange
Rating: 5 out of 10

In bob's review of Yorio: Samurai Zombie,, he commented that he's not much for films that serve only as vehicles for gore FX. A couple of years ago I might have countered him on this - even gone so far as to call him "a curmudgeon" (as he himself put it) - but as we come to the end of another year, saturated with overt-the-top Japanese gore, sex and weirdness, I have to admit I'm starting to agree with him. This style of filmmaking is starting to seem a little flimsy and unless someone comes along and transplants all this bizarro stuff into a decent screenplay with better execution, I predict that films like Samurai Princess are going to quickly stop being such crowd-pleasers.

Samurai Princess is the latest outing from Japanese writer / director Kengo Kaji (Tokyo Gore Police) and while it certainly lives up to the insanity of its predecessor, it also falls into the same trap as that film- failing to deliver a storyline worth following.

Put simply, Samurai Princess is a revenge tale. It takes place in a world where mortals live among insane and murderous human/android hybrids. I think the setting is supposed to be some alternate reality called "The Garden of Infinity." A mad scientist turns a girl into a state-of-the-art ninja doll equipped with 11 types of built-in weapons and sends her out to avenge the massacre of her friends. Cue fountains and fountains of blood, brains and boob grenades.

I recently re-watched the fantastic Lady Snowblood, a film that Asian cinema buffs will no doubt brush off as being "old news" but man, it's a true revenge masterpiece. It's hard not to compare the two films as I write this, and Lady Snowblood continues to come out on top. It's got the blood fountains but still manages to be a classy revenge fantasy with a fantastic main character who you truly feel for. I wish I could say the same for Samurai Princess.

Don't get me wrong. I think there's something extremely interesting in the basic idea of Kaji's films. Take away some of the more gratuitous aspects of this movie and you've got yourself a piece of modern art to rival anything currently showing at the Guggenheim. The way he transforms the human form into a manifestation of violence and sexuality is, I'm sure, a grotesque comment on our nature as primal beings. It's just as entertainment cinema (which, don't be fooled, it very much wants to be), these bold ideas don't fully translate.

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