An exciting action thriller that ticks all the right boxes by bringing in heavy intrigue and mystery, Yakuza Princess eases us into this world before going gung-ho into the action. Quite the entertaining movie.
Based on the acclaimed graphic novel “Samurai Shiro” by Danilo Beyruth and set in the expansive Japanese community of Sao Paulo, Brazil — the largest Japanese diaspora in the world, we follow orphan Akemi (MASUMI), who, upon turning 21, discovers that she is the heiress to half of Japan’s expansive Yakuza crime syndicate. After forging an uneasy alliance with an amnesiac stranger (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) who believes an ancient sword binds their two fates, Akemi unleashes war against the other half of the syndicate who wants her dead.
You always worry when a singer tries to broaden their horizons into acting; the fear of that wooden performance is easily tossed to the wayside by MASUMI, who shows that she has the dramatic chops to carry herself very well in Yakuza Princess. What perhaps hinders her is the rather bland character she is given. So when she gets her moments to be more physical, she thoroughly excels. Equally, the supporting cast fills out their roles nicely, all able to advance the story as they need to.
Yakuza Princess does suffer from not reinventing the wheel with its story; however, a person with a family history that she isn’t aware of finds out her head is wanted by crime bosses. All the while, a mysterious stranger tries to protect her as she figures out why she is wanted. Yet, it is still an intriguing story being told with just enough freshness to compel its audience. Furthermore, by feeding us a lot of information beforehand, we can have a good grip on the story as more of it is eventually released into the world.
However, we are given a visually arresting film that seems to have taken all of the neon lights in Sao Paulo to create a moody atmosphere when mixed with the dark palette on screen. The moments we are in daylight seem almost too bright or foreign for the audience’s eyes due to how long we are in these dark environments. Those not overly keen on CGI blood splatter may be frustrated here as Yakuza Princess is full of it as almost every hit causes some damage to the recipient, which is a welcome surprise considering in so many action-heavy films, hits make no impact!
When it comes to those action scenes, they do not disappoint; sure, there are some of the standard quick cuts when the cat and mouse scenes are in play. But when the action gets to settle, we see much more, and Meyer and MASUMI do very well in keeping it together in this seemingly blended style of Hollywood and Asian action choreography. Sometimes in films with this much action and one that edges towards the two-hour mark, the plot gets left to the wayside. Not so here, as at no point are we or our characters ever removed from the ever forwarding plot.
Being based on a graphic novel, there is obviously a lot more story to tell here in Yakuza Princess and director Vincente Amorim certainly tries to lead us down the franchise path. If any future films have as much well choreographic action as is presented here then we are in for a great series.
Magnet Releasing is releasing the film in the U.S. on September 3rd. Signature Entertainment will release the film in the UK on September 13th.
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