Saturday, 17 October 2015

Azumi (5 Stars)

"There are so many evil people in the world. Somebody has to kill them".

A Japanese Shogun, Master Gessai, has failed in his attempts to bring peace to Japan. He exiles himself to a remote mountain with 10 orphans, who he trains as assassins. Nine boys and one girl. As is to be expected the girl, Azumi, grows up to be the strongest of the fighters. In their final test the assassins, now teenagers, have to prove that they are totally ruthless. They are told to pair up with their best friend in the group, then they are ordered to fight to the death. Azumi kills Nachi, the boy she loves. After this the remaining five assassins are considered ready to battle against the three warlords challenging the rightful ruler of Japan.

The first warlord, Nagamasa Asano, is caught off guard and killed easily. This puts the second warlord, Kiyomasa Kato, on guard, and the rest of the film is about the battle against him. He has powerful servants and proves difficult to defeat. One by one the assassins fall, leaving Azumi to face him alone. What I mean is that she's alone, but he isn't. In the final scene she has to face 200 warriors to rescue her master.

"Azumi" is an adaptation of a long running Japanese comic book. The comic's extreme action was initially considered too difficult to portray in a live action film, but the director Ryuhei Kitamura has done an admirable job. Casting the young actress Aya Ueto in the title role was a stroke of genius. She was only 17 at the time the film was made, but she proved herself to be an action star of considerable talent. On the first day of shooting she received a head wound and had to go to hospital, but she showed true professionalism by returning to work the next day. As it turned out, the injury has left a small scar which will mark her forehead for the rest of her life. Instead of regretting it, she proudly calls it "Azumi's scar".

In case you're wondering about the third warlord, wait for the sequel.

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