Review: Yakuza Princess

Yakuza Princess poster 218x300 - Review: Yakuza PrincessSet in São Paulo, Brazil, home to the largest Japanese diaspora in the world, Yakuza Princess is an action packed martial arts thriller and story of self-discovery. A young Japanese woman with a mysterious past, an ancient and powerful Muramasa katana (sword), and an amnesiac stranger come together to right a wrong and find redemption.  Adapted from a graphic novel, the movie begins in Osaka with the massacre of an entire family, except for a little girl. Fast forward 20 years and Akemi (Japanese pop musician MASUMI) is now a grown woman, working on her martial arts skills in Brazil, unaware of her true origins. But when a disfigured stranger (Jonathan Rhys Meyers, “The Tudors”, Match Point) appears in her apartment just in time to save her from would-be assassins, their fates are set. What follows is a couple of hours of violence as they draw closer and closer to their truths. 

There’s a rival Yakuza newly arrived from Japan who’s hunting for Akemi since she’s just turned 21 and is now the head of the powerful Kawa crime family empire, even if she has no idea. From the minute you see him, he’s shooting and beheading people right and left. And everyone who gets between him and Akemi is left in a pool of blood. So she and her newly acquired protector/pal go on a journey to find out why she’s the target.

There are a couple of good twists and turns in the story, but mostly it’s a series of fight scenes with a plot point dropped here and there. It might have been more exciting with some judicious cutting (it’s almost two hours) and you never really have the opportunity to connect with either of the main characters. Its biggest drawback is that MASUMI isn’t able to give her role any emotional depth. Rhys Meyers is better, but has very little to work with. It’s well shot, and the action keeps it going, but I don’t think this one is going into the martial arts pantheon. It’s entertaining if you’re into that sort of thing, but it’s certainly no John Wick, which is a high bar, but worth aspiring to these days.

In theaters and virtual cinemas nationwide Sept. 3rd.

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