Geisha Assassin (aka Geisha vs. Ninja)
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Directed by Go Ohara (the action director of Death Trance), Geisha Assassin follows the story of Kotono (newcomer Minami Tsukui), a beautiful geisha who inherits a secretly-guarded sword and uses it to pursue Hyoe, the man who killed her father. Throughout her quest to face-off against Hyoe, Kotono battles Japan s most notorious female ninjas and assassins only to learn a hidden secret.
After Resident Evil and Kill Bill, a new style of martial arts action movie is born! --TwitchFilms.net
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Geisha Assassin wastes no time getting to the, uh... point. After a brief introduction, the movie opens into a dimly lit Japanese garden in which our little lady is stalking a swordsman who somehow senses her intentions and, just like that, they are engaged in a duel. Unimpressed by her swords-wo-manship, he declines to take her life and nonchalantly wanders off into the darkness. Enraged by his disrespect and by her own failure, she rushes forward once more, only to be intercepted by his bodyguards... and this is where the ninjas come in.
From this point onward, Kotono (the geisha) travels across medieval Japan battling wave after wave of ninjas and other historically inaccurate mini-bosses in her vengeful perseveration over an otherwise anonymous swordsman who allegedly did some kind of not nice thing one time. Although he initially seems unaware of her identity and surprisingly unconcerned by her aspiration to do him in, he is just attentive enough to leave an unlikely ensemble of bad guy bodyguards in her path. It's of no use however, because this vigilante vixen will stop at nothing to ensure that justice, or something like it, is served - even if it means enduring a sequence of cinematic killfests, skillfully dispatching one opponent after another for a whole seventy minutes!
Among those who invariably donate their lives to Kotono's body count are ninjas (of course), a Shaolin-looking monk who has somehow been historically and geographically displaced to a guard position at the entrance of a Japanese shrine, a seemingly random traveler, a shaman with Freddy Krueger powers who summons imaginary parkour-demons, and a tribal woman who I'm convinced is Julia from the Tekken video game series. There were probably others, but I honestly don't even remember because there were so many. Has it been an hour, already?
Eventually, Kotono catches up to what's-his-face and she persists that he allow himself to be killed. Exhausted of his supply of bodyguards, Mr. Calm-and-Collected suddenly wants to talk things through, revealing only now that there actually is a plot in this movie. It is also called into question whether Kotono is a heroine or a villainess but, predictably, she is as uninterested in the plot as you and I are if we made it this far into the movie. For the remaining few minutes, Geisha Girl opts to let her sword do the talking.
As mentioned above, Geisha Assassin is first and foremost a sword fighting movie for sword fighting's sake. The story takes a rather minimalistic approach to plot exposition, revealing what little plot there is on a need-to-know basis only. Dialogue is typically short and bittersweet, with a few exceptions near the end of the movie as we finally find out who exactly this guy is and what he did to enrage Kotono so much.
Qualitatively, Geisha Assassin definitely has a B-movie feel to it, but the amature makeup, unenhanced picture and unrealistic villains just add to its charm. Unafraid to just be what it is, a low budget film about a sword fighting Japanese babe, Geisha Assassin doesn't just accept that it's a B-movie; it takes the show on the road. Interspersed with dark humor and martial arts movie clichés, Geisha Assassin seems all too happy to poke fun at the swordplay genre and even at itself. One particularly memorable event occured during a duel with one ninja when after a brief first round he stopped to harass her: "not bad for a geisha." Rather than taking the bait and getting angry over his comment, she carefully leaned over to pick up an object from the ground and then gently tossed it over to him. Looking down, he suddenly realized that one of his hands had been severed in the encounter! Ha!
Another moment of interest occurred during a showdown with three fully black clad ninjas, IN AN OPEN FIELD IN BROAD DAYLIGHT, when a moment was captured Matrix style, except that in this movie it was done the budget way - by having the geisha and all three ninjas hold very still (in a seriously difficult pose) while the cameraman walked around them. Brilliant!
Aside from the intentionally unrealistic aspects (such as flying ninjas and imaginary parkour-demons) and cliché but humorous moments (such as a punch or sword being held at full extention after a coup de grâce, or three ninjas stopping mid-battle to strike a pose) the fight choreography is actually very well done and contains some of the most fluid and convincing swordplay that I've ever seen in a "silly" movie.
The sound track to Geisha Assassin stood out to me as being particularly appropriate. It wasn't the most ambitious soundtrack and the music wasn't especially complex either; it is a B-movie soundtrack after all, but it was just so simple and catchy, and it complemented the action and in-between-periods perfectly. I would even listen to the soundtrack independently from the movie if I could. *
This isn't to say that Geisha Assassin isn't without its faults. There were a few times when combatants developed wounds that were inconsistent with the angle of the corresponding sword cut and I must have missed each time I watched it how exactly it is that Kotono uses a different sword in the first and second half of the movie, despite her isolation from any type of town, outpost, or swordsmith. However, maybe these were intentional blunders (which wouldn't be that surprising), or maybe I'm just being nitpicky about a very low budget, but still very entertaining movie.
For fans of mindless, cinematic violence who can tolerate an unpolished presentation, Geisha Assassin is the kind of not-so-serious action flick that is probably best enjoyed with a group of friends and maybe some alcohol. I watched it by myself at first and then again about a week later with some peers from our campus martial arts club and I enjoyed it just as much (maybe more) the second time. Stylistically, I would compare Geisha Assassin to Lady Snowblood. Both are period movies about some "ronery radies," each of whom was raised in seclusion and trained to fulfill a legacy of revenge - all while dressed for a completely different role, of course. Another similarity is the unassuming, even childlike innocence and reserved nature of these women who spend so much of their free time cutting people down. Is it weird if I think that's hot?
* I later looked it up and discovered that the sound track is available, although it's curiously much more expensive than the movie. Geisha vs Ninja Original Sound Track
First and foremost, low-budget B-grade action flicks have inherent limitations that frequently leave the final product rather wanting. Creating a great action scene with no name actors, little money, and inexperienced stuntmen and choreographers is something incredibly difficult that's accomplished by only the most talented of filmmakers. Most of the time, you end up with a few decent moves mixed in with lots of edits and quick cuts to hide the lack of talent behind and in front of the camera. The people behind "Geisha Assassin" (aka "Geisha vs. Ninjas") were the same people behind the action in "Death Trance" (2005) and "Onechanbara" (2008). My expectations were rightfully confused, because "Death Trance" was cool with decent action sequences while "Onechanbara" was stupid with poor action sequences.
Most surprisingly, "Geisha vs. Ninjas" has a number of highly effective swordfights and fist-a-cuffs that use wide camera shots that show multiple attacks and counterattacks from the actors, which is a remarkable, extremely impressive feat that must have required a lot of physical practice and rehearsals off camera. One example is the fist fight between the geisha and the monk, which is truly scintillating and is without doubt of a very high quality, even when compared to more popular martial arts fare from Hong Kong and Thailand. Anyone who watches that fight and claims it to be average B-movie quality simply doesn't know what high quality action is.
I'm probably taking this review too seriously, so let's get to the ninjas. Unfortunately, the ninjas only appear during the first 20 minutes or so, then disappear for the remainder of the film because the scriptwriters obviously wanted to keep things fresh by substituting other bad guys like monks, demons, tribal women, and samurai - which are entertaining in their own right. Therefore, those expecting lots and lots of ninjas will be disappointed in that regard, but when they are on screen they prove very difficult to kill and break out some crazy maneuvers. In addition, the geisha aspect of the film also drops off at about the same time the ninjas leave, as the lead protagonist discards her geisha outfit and goes for some "period" clothing instead. These are relatively minor quibbles that will be perceived as major negatives to those who so desperately want to see a geisha fight ninjas for ninety minutes.
As would be expected, the script is weak and the scoring is generic; but the greatest flaw of this movie is the final half hour, which loses some steam and feels drawn out with too much bland dialogue. This is a blunder because the opening 50 minutes are carried by excellent pacing, energy, and a bit of welcome cheesiness. That's it for the negatives though, and much of these cons are overshadowed by the numerous fight scenes.
Some of the early negative reviews on IMDb are ludicrous. The critics nit-pick the unrealistic aspects of this movie like the length of a sword, as if I care that the length of a weapon was extended for use in a film about a GEISHA FIGHTING NINJAS! Another criticism is that ninjas can't fly and that a geisha swordswoman could never be as strong as the one portrayed here. Well, let me tell you this. In a movie about a GEISHA FIGHTING NINJAS, some superhuman strength and gravity-defying abilities are more than welcome if the characters kick as much rear-end as they do here. The mere premise of this film is so ludicrous than one wonders why anyone would watch it with the slightest expectation for realism. And by the way, ninjas can do anything they want. Do you know why? Because they're ninjas, that's why.
So yeah, this movie is cool in all sorts of ways. For brainless fun, you're in for a good time.
There is a plot in there but even after it was explained I'm still not sure what the real details are (multiple views!!). The film is directed and choreographed by GO OHARA, who has a few other movies under his belt. His main specialty is action choreography, not on the level of the Hong Kong guys but he can hold his own.
Lets get to the point, this movie is a simple showcase of Minami Tsukui's excellent athleticism. When this film released she was a new comer into the Japanese film industry, and being that she is not a Super Model, Soft Porn Star, Singer, Underwear model, etc... She makes up for it by being a more traditionally (classically) attractive young girl that can handle some decent choreography and therefore not look like a fool while kicking butt in action scenes. In fact she can hang with the boys just fine. The fight with the Monk being the highlight of the film.
Personally I don't like the whole Geisha culture, I find the getup displeasing to the eyes and feel it hides the womens real beauty.
You wouldn't know the girl behind the grease make up is a cutie until she sheds the geisha getup.
Unless you have a curiosity to see Minami KickA$$ or love all things Samurai Girl you probably have no business buying this film.