Wednesday, March 16, 2005

THE PRINCESS BLADE

We turn now to ADV Films’ martial arts action film, THE PRINCESS BLADE (2001), a samurai movie in modern drag.

Yumiko Shaku stars as Yuki, a nineteen year-old member of a clan of professional assassins known as The House of Takemikazuchi. When she’s sent to kill a deserting member of her group, an old man appears and tells her that Byakurai (Kyusaku Shimada), current leader of the Takemikazuchi, killed Yuki’s mother, the legitimate leader of the group, fifteen years before. Yuki returns to the group’s secret headquarters and confronts Byakurai, prompting a furious sword fight that results in Yuki fleeing her former colleagues and seeking sanctuary with a young resistance fighter and his emotionally troubled sister.

Set in a vaguely totalitarian society in what appears to be either the near future or an alternate timeline, director Shinsuke Sato’s THE PRINCESS BLADE is a live-action anime (based on a manga comic series), stylishly shot and conceived, but somehow dramatically unsatisfying. There is no sense of any closure at the film’s downbeat ending, and I was left with the feeling that the previous 90 minutes didn’t really amount to anything.

The fight scenes, choreographed by IRON MONKEY star Donnie Yen, are astounding and remarkably shot and edited – unfortunately, the time between these scenes seems endless.

ADV has two versions of this disc, one a special edition, the other a bare-bones, movie-only release. They sent me the bare-bones disc. The picture and sound on the disc are top-notch, with a flawless transfer. Unfortunately, aside from some trailers for other ADV releases, that’s it. According to their catalog, "the special edition is loaded with never before seen extras, including documentaries on The Making of THE PRINCESS BLADE and The Special Effects of THE PRINCESS BLADE, interviews with the cast and staff, Action Director Donnie Yen on the Action of THE PRINCESS BLADE, Behind the Scenes of THE PRINCESS BLADE, deleted scenes, outtakes and ADV previews." But since I never saw those, I can’t comment on any of them.

BUY: The Princess Blade