Starring Minami Tsuki, Shigeru Kanai, Nao Nagasawa, Taka Okubo
Fight Choreography by Naohiro Kowamoto
Directed by Go Ohara
Go Ohara is a former stuntman and fight choreographer(Death Trance, Zero Woman) who makes his directorial debut with this film, and brings his energy and fast-paced fight choreography with him, but can that hold up a weak story?
Geisha Assassin centers on a beautiful young geisha named Kotomi (Tsuki) who, aftera night of dancing follows a samurai named Katagiri and attempts to kill him, in revenge for killing her father. He doesn’t oblige her the battle, forcing her to face wave after wave of increasingly difficult henchmen strategically placed all throughout the land, seeing if she is a good enough swords woman to face him in combat. Once she comes face to face with him again, she learns that not everything is as she thought…
That’s the story. Yes, it’s pretty much all of it. Her reasons for wanting this fight, and why he did kill her father, and who those people attacking her were aren’t revealed until the last few minutes of the film, which creates a story as flimsy as they come. Since you don’t know why she is fighting, it’s hard to care. Scenes were we should be worried about Kotomi’s safety, we aren’t, since we don’t really know who she is or the stakes involved. There are a few flashbacks to Kotomi and her father, but they unfold too slowly within the story. The actors do a fair job, but it’s the story here that is an issue, because there isn’t much of one. They save the storytelling mainly for the end, and by that time it’s hard to care about Kotomi’s mission.
One place where the film does excel is the fight scenes, well choreographed by Kowamoto, particularly the sword fights, whose cadence has a more Hong Kong flavor to it than the typical Japanese aesthetic. The pace is fast, and the camera takes good angles, and there are many, many fights but each one is different from the one before. It is in these fights that the character of Kotomi comes out the most. The final fight versus Katagiri is a good one, and at least has the benefit of the story reveal there. Since Go Ohara was a stunt man and fight choreographer first, it’s no surprise the action was well done, but the deficiencies of the story are too large to overcome.
Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 5
Geisha Assassin feels more like I was watching a video game being played rather than a movie. The story takes too much time to reveal itself, and it’s still hard to care afterward. Good fight choreography can’t always save a mediocre film, and it doesn’t here.
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It is a very slight story, and I wasn’t enamoured by the opening scenes (the initial confrontation was a bit clumsy) but I felt things picked up when she had to fight the giant monk. Also the sequence with the demons was excellent, really atmospheric.
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