Yakuza Princess (2021)

Posted in Reviews by - September 22, 2021
Yakuza Princess (2021)

Anyone going into this contemporary Brazilian female-led martial arts film expecting something similar to Vietnam’s Furie, the Philippines’ Maria, South Korea’s The Villainess, the USA’s Atomic Blonde, or umpteen other offerings from recent years will undoubtedly be disappointed. This is an altogether different beast – and not a fully unwelcome one, either. Unlike those high-octane thrillers, director and co-writer Vicente Amorim prefers to take his sweet time revealing a story which is all too familiar – not to mention one that we have already figured out within the first few minutes – while also touching on a number of quite obvious genre tropes. The combat scenes are annoyingly edited with, at times, quite jarring and confusing cuts, but if you can park that for a moment (not ideal, of course, for a film being advertised as an action movie), then there is some rather decent filmmaking going on here, in spite of the shoestring budget. The cinematography and sound design is striking, set within São Paulo’s bustling Japanese community (the largest outside of Japan), with neon-lit city streets, misty backlit graveyards, grisly body horror, and the sort of feverish blood splatter and gore that could only have been inspired by a comic book (the film is based on Danilo Beyruth’s Samurai Shiro). The singer Masumi plays Akemi, an orphan who suddenly finds herself at the heart of a Yakuza turf war when the true identity of her family is revealed. She falls into the orbit of an amnesiac assassin carrying a katana, played by the Irish actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who escapes from hospital stark-bollock-naked with a fresh set of facial scars and kick-ass kung fu skills to initially protect the young woman. It seems like strange casting, but full marks to Meyers for really giving it his all – literally and physically. Masumi is likeable if unremarkable in the lead, slowly piecing together her own identity before ultimately revealing an innate killing ability to become the titular ‘Yazuka princess’. There’s nothing new here, and it’s far too long, but it is certainly stylish, and there are just enough diverting moments to appease the genre die-hards.

Yakuza Princess is out now on digital platforms in the UK courtesy of Signature Entertainment, including Apple TV and iTunes.

This post was written by
Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a laptop in London, UK.

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