Stars: MASUMI, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Tsuyoshi Ihara Director: Vicente Amorim Distributor: Signature Entertainment
“It’s your fate.”
Adapted from the graphic novel, Samurai Shiro, Yakuza Princess details the quest to learn one’s destiny, as an unbeknown heiress to half of the Yakuza clashes paths with conflicting journeys and motifs, as they are guided by the sword.
Opening “20 years ago” in Osaka, Japan, a severely dark and somewhat graphic onslaught takes place at a peaceful family (mob) event. Men, women and children are killed. But there’s a survivor. Assumingly 20 years later in the “present”, in São Paulo – dubbed as having a large Japanese community – we meet our survivor, Akemi (MASUMI). Stuck in both a dead-end job and the dojo, Akemi survived the family incident of 20 years ago when her grandpa rescued her and fled to Brazil. With grandpa passed on, Akemi is on course to discover her heritage, but not quite as she imagined or by herself…
Waking up in a hospital, ridden with wounds and scarring, Jonathan Rhys Meyers is an amnesiac who was found with a sword, though with no ties with Europe or America, nobody at the hospital knows who he is. He doesn’t know who he is. But he knows martial arts, and the sword he was found with – a Muramasa – belonged to the grandfather of Akemi.
Yakuza Princess presents what are essentially three storylines, eventually tying in together. Most important of the three, there is the concept of a girl finding her path, then, though with much greater interest there are tensions and disputes within the Yakuza, and finally there is Rhys Meyers’ Shiro, a randomer somewhere in between, almost stalker-ish. The man we follow in the Yakuza is Takeshi (Tsuyoshi Ihara), a veteran and trouble-maker often killing without means. His actions are violent and cold-blooded, and eventually he finds himself in pursuit of both Akemi and Shiro.
As an action film, Yakuza Princess doesn’t hold itself back in displaying an array of obviously cartoonish violence, often entailing blood splattering across the camera lense. Often the violence is gory, but the fight sequences and actions leading up to such events contextualises the gore into an almost comedic fashion. Along with these instances of comic action, Yakuza Princess fails to maintain any serious tones or vibes for the majority of whenever Rhys Meyers is on screen. Way too often does his presence diminish way too much of the film.
Under the creative vision of writer-director Vicente Amorim, there is an ambiance that the concept of Yakuza Princess is excellent, though its execution fails to live up to its great possibilities. In a somewhat ironic fashion, whilst MASUMI’s Akemi is a woman not to be messed with, there is an overwhelmingly unwanted visual that the character (or actress) just doesn’t care too much for the situations at hand. Of course, any fight or training sequences are well executed, but outside of that, there is a clear lack of enthusiasm.
Ultimately, Yakuza Princess views in a fashion similar to that of a mixed bag. Though, it is a certainty that there are more good aspects of this film than bad, it is undeniable that the hazardous mixture of storylines in the first third and the suspect placement of Rhys Meyers are somewhat severe, though they do not fully represent the genuine quality in front of or behind the camera. Perhaps one of Yakuza Princess’ greatest strengths is its cinematography, successfully repackaging itself with visuals similar to that of John Wick, towards the end. Yakuza successfully salvages and redeems any preceding issues with an excellent third act.
Yakuza Princess is now available to watch and own in the UK on digital. Many thanks to Signature Entertainment for the pleasure of this film.
This article’s featured image: By Source, Signature Entertainment, Fair Use