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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 19.51%
Average: 10.98%
Pretty Bad: 1.22%
Total Crap: 0%

4 reviews, 58 user ratings

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by Jay Seaver

"Aya Ueto's blood-spattered face is a work of art."
5 stars

Say what you will about the rest of the movie, but Aya Ueto's blood-spattered face is a work of art.

The title character's face gets hit with speckles of blood a lot, always covering the same half, with her hair falling into place to cast a shadow. Visually, it's a pretty clear trick - Azumi is half beautiful, innocent young girl, half cold-blooded killer. Director Ryuhei Kitamura gets a lot of milage from this image, using it for sadness, rage, and Azumi being just the most efficient teenage assassin you're ever going to find.

This movie doesn't get made in the US; the body count is too high, and the subject matter - kids raised to kill without question or compassion - would have people writing letters and threatening boycotts by the time it was announced (heck, the popularity of the manga it's based upon would have caused a furor). The violence is completely over-the-top, almost all of it is either directed against kids or committed by them, and the film's moral compass is not steady, to say the least. Gessai, the master assassin who has trained Azumi and her nine male compatriots for the past decade, has them reduce their numbers to five to find out who the best is and who is the most willing to follow orders. Later, as they come upon a village being ransacked by bandits, he holds them back, saying that their work (assassinating ambitious shoguns) is too important for defending innocent people to interfere.

And yet, the kids are likable. They are, after all, kids - though they've been trained to kill, it's like other kids are trained to play sports or do their schoolwork. When they get their first glimpse of the outside world, they get excited watching troupe of traveling acrobats. One develops a crush on the pretty Yae (Aya Okamoto), who will become Azumi's friend after she is separated from the rest of the group. Azumi will be tempted to join her and lead a normal life, but it's not to be - knowing himself a target, one of the three Shoguns the children have been dispatched to kill has unleashed not only an army of bandits, samurai, and ronin, but also freed a flamboyant, vicious serial killer. Bijomaru (J Odagiri) is so skilled at death that he has never had his sword in a defensive position.

Azumi is based upon a manga, and still retains a lot of that sensibility. Anime and manga are the source from which The Matrix drew much of its visual inspiration, and Kitamura stays true to the source medium (I've not read the comics). Azumi moves impossibly fast, as does Bijomaru, and when they collide amid a battle that consumes an entire town, it's one of the most energetic action sequences you'll ever see. There are impossible shots in it; one of the most astounding has the camera making a vertical circuit around Azumi and Bijomaru, and I've got no idea how they managed it, even with CGI-assistance.

Ryuhei Kitamura has improved since Versus, his last film to show up here in Boston. In particular, this movie is paced better, perhaps because others wrote the script, and even though Azumi is actually somewhat longer, it flies by. And though this is one of the most action-stuffed movie's you'll see, it never becomes overwhelming. Seeing this, I am completely stoked about Kitamura being the guy to direct the next (and final, for now) installment in the Gojira franchise.

Azumi isn't for everyone. It features kids slicing people up and getting sliced back, and is peppered with vicious bits of black humor. Saying it's one of the best teenaged-assassin movies you'll ever see is something of a backhanded compliment, but it is - the director makes an impressive leap forward.

Aya Ueto is charismatic as the title character, and J Odagiri gives one of the best scenery-chewing raving lunatic performances in recent memory. Recommended for those who aren't repulsed by the concept.

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originally posted: 06/02/04 16:03:42
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2004 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Philadelphia Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/21/12 Golden J. Williams Jr. Azumi and the village of bandits fight scene was AWESOME! 5 stars
6/09/09 irwandiaz is there another movies like this?? 5 stars
11/01/08 Max Sloppy but fun 3 stars
2/13/07 AJ Muller This flick will walk up and down your ass. More twisted beauty from Japan. 5 stars
11/23/06 William Goss Solid swordplay, but just not very fun. 3 stars
9/19/06 Aldo Good story Good Action Good characters. If only asian cinema would produce more of this 5 stars
8/16/06 eunice _16 its pretty nice cool, azumi was so cool and awesome 5 stars
1/23/06 pauleen grace cana i really love azumi,especially nachi 5 stars
11/17/05 Tom Warner Well worth watching!! 5 stars
10/13/05 stella may emuy i very much like this movie coz i like the way they act.alll i can say it's really beautifu 5 stars
8/03/05 mocks nice movie 2 stars
7/06/05 Alex Espectacular, maravillosa, fantastica 5 stars
3/25/05 fern buenafe i like it is very good!!! ive never seen anything like that film ever!! 5 stars
3/21/05 cherry awesome!! i like her hair! 5 stars
1/27/05 Engar Unquestionably one of the best martial arts films I've seen - I'm in Love!! 5 stars
1/18/05 kicelda moore excellent 5 stars
1/02/05 christopher rante azumi is cute and very nice the is great and full of actions 5 stars
12/11/04 icy nice movie 4 stars
11/16/04 corvair Best movie!! 5 stars
11/13/04 Sittie Aisha Mabaning the movie is good... the plot is something new... 5 stars
11/11/04 Sean Mesler I agree that this movie is one of the most exciting movies I have ever seen... 5 stars
11/10/04 Lia Love it.. Cool fight scenes! And great cast! :) 5 stars
11/06/04 chocoryou Bijomaru scares me. Cool! 5 stars
11/05/04 jorge cosgayon aya ueto is frikkin' perfect 5 stars
10/26/04 malcolm a fucking blast 5 stars
10/01/04 Wodzu Just great !!! 5 stars
9/28/04 David Levine I concur, it was simply awesome, she is awesome and the cinematograpy/direction is awesome. 5 stars
9/13/04 james i really love azumi....(aya ueto)....shes the best of the best the movie is bloody awesome! 5 stars
9/07/04 Jun Sorioso If you're looking for an action film or if you're an anime fan, this is the movie to watch! 5 stars
9/04/04 yoji mendoza whew,,,this is a great movie!!!! 5 stars
8/31/04 carlos very amusing... i like aya very much!!!! 5 stars
8/24/04 Janie Lim Few teenage stars can do the role of Azumi as will as Aya Ueto 5 stars
7/29/04 marlon satorre highly recomended 5 stars
7/26/04 djheart ramos this movie is terrible and amasing movie, i like it.,. 5 stars
7/24/04 Jann Well done, cliched action movie 4 stars
7/18/04 Larry K Great characters, great action, good story. The villains are more colorful than the heroes. 5 stars
6/26/04 Dann Carter Awesome,interesting,great action, a great samurai film !! better than Princess Blade 5 stars
6/15/04 rogelio monis jr. bloody, hip, and dvine. 5 stars
6/09/04 Joel Cabute none 5 stars
5/30/04 Mark Great movie, awesome mass battle at the end and the story is better then people say imo. 5 stars
5/26/04 Mia BEST samurai movie I've seen. Odagiri was real hot in there. SEXY!!! 5 stars
5/25/04 Calypsobreeze 1/2 hr too long, forget a plot or coherent ending, ok fights 3 stars
5/09/04 azia i wish i am azum 5 stars
4/06/04 Oktarina Angela Azumi Film Is a great samurai film i ever seen, I love Aya Ueto and Jo Odagiri 5 stars
3/09/04 DaveV Action scenes are good to very good. Great story. The villain in white is fun. 5 stars
3/07/04 Budi Purwito Great... and sweet. 5 stars
2/25/04 Moi SO GOOD see it NOW!!! the man in white with the rose is the BEST!!!! 5 stars
2/24/04 JVuong Awesome. Emotion and action. Almost made me cry :( 5 stars
2/21/04 EMMANUEL ARIAS Filled with emotions, scences that impress; And no need for nudity! Hollywood take notes 5 stars
2/18/04 cooper Interesting movie. Sword fight can get better. fast forward in the movie is too obvious. 4 stars
2/18/04 zola AWESOME!!! 5 stars
2/16/04 Daniel Feldman Kill Who? Forget Bill, this is where its at!!!!! 5 stars
2/15/04 ryan sobrevinas Azumi is a great action film. Loved every second of it! Aya Ueto is my new goddess!!! 4 stars
2/14/04 Jason Ashley While there is a lot of action, the great acting & story is what makes it amazing. 5 stars
2/12/04 James Highly recommended, Best action/violence ever as of female heroine. AAA+++ 5 stars
2/05/04 steve hill i love killing and this movie gave it to me 5 stars
2/02/04 Jens This blows the shit out of "Kill Bill!" Amazing 5 stars
1/25/04 Xander I'm completely blown away, easily one of the coolest movies I've seen in a long time.... 5 stars
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  21-Jul-2006 (NR)
  DVD: 07-Feb-2008



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