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Overall Rating

Awesome: 11.11%
Worth A Look77.78%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 11.11%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 3 user ratings

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Princess Blade, The
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by Brian McKay

"Chicks with Swords make me all gooey inside"
4 stars

Riding a small but noteworty wave of positive buzz from last year, THE PRINCESS BLADE finally made its way to region 1 DVD, and the DVD finally made its way to my mailbox. And while it's no KILL BILL, it ain't bad. Oh, there's SOME bad, don't get me wrong. At times it's a nearly laughable MATRIX + CHARLIES ANGELS Samurai hybrid with dramatics that are so nearly overwrought that they could almost be the stuff of a bad network T.V. Movie of the Week. And yet, somehow, it all works.

Maybe one of the reasons it works is because it picks up the slack where a film like Versus left off. It gives us enough story (albeit a cardboard thin one), and interesting enough characters to safely elevate itself above the "Random encounters and brawling in the woods" formula of Versus. By the same token, the acting is just good enough to rise above the occasional triteness of the script.

The film begins with the obligatory voice-over narration, informing us that in the near future, Japan is once again ruled by a monarchy and the country has returned to isolationism, closing its borders to the outside world. A clan of assasins has been hired to put down terrorist rebels - the same clan that princess Yuki (Yumiko Shaku) is about to inherit when she reaches the age of 20. We are introduced to Yuki in the film's opening action sequence, the first of several that are likely to have you thumbing the backscan button because they just look so damn cool (and are so damn fast).

The action pieces are good, with plenty of posturing and katana-clanging. But what's such a pleasant surprise is how good the filler is. You know, those little things like cohesiveness of plot, character development, and performances from talented actors imbued with a smidgen of chemistry. When Yuki learns that her mother, the former leader of the clan, was killed by its current de facto leader Byakurai (Kyusaku Shimada), she swears revenge and flees with the clan in hot pursuit. Injured, she secretly hitches a ride on the back of a passing truck driven by Takashi (Hideaki Ito), a reluctant member of the rebel group that Yuki's clan has been hired to destroy. When he later discovers her and nurses her back to health, the inevitable bonding between them begins - but it is handled in a subdued enough manner to be effective without becoming cloying, in spite of a few lines of dialogue between them that are almost howlingly bad.

From there, the final showdown comes quickly, delivering up a satisfying action climax and a tragedy that keeps the film from derailing into "happy ending" mode, leaving us with a more fittingly somber result. Yumiko Shaku gives us a tough and initially non-emotive Yuki who gradually grows from a training-reflexive killing machine into a human being. Hideaki Ito is a pretty boy with anglofied hair - but I gotta hand it to him, the kid portrays a sympathetic character in spite of some of the cheeseball dialogue he got stuck with and a few pregnant pauses that are almost Shatnerian. "You kill for no reason . . but I . . . had a REASON. A REA . . . SON!"

There is really nothing new under the sun of modestly budgeted Japanese action flicks to be found in PRINCESS BLADE. But the cast is certainly strong enough, and the action crisp enough, to recommend it well above the average hack and slash flick.

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originally posted: 01/26/04 20:10:10
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User Comments

11/03/06 Freya It kicks ass man - but you gotta watch it more than once to really understand 5 stars
9/25/05 K. Sear Completely aimless. Don't waste your time. 2 stars
2/12/05 ALDO i really enjoyed this...... 4 stars
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  08-Aug-2003 (R)



Directed by
  Shinsuke Sato

Written by
  Kei Kunii
  Shinsuke Sato

  Yumiko Shaku
  Hideaki Ito
  Shiro Sano
  Yoichi Numata
  Kyusaku Shimada
  Yoko Maki

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