Adapted from the manga of the same title, this 2003 action flick tracks the blood-spurting adventures of its title character, a young female assassin who wields a lethally mean sword. Somewhere in ancient Japan. A little girl is sitting on the ground next to the body of her dead mother. Then a stranger comes along, a man with three other kids in tow. The little girl’s name is Azumi and the man is a samurai looking for apprentices. A warrior, who’s son was slain during a pointless battle, is assigned a private mission by a high priest. It is up to him to try and stop the madness of wars that wreak havoc upon feudal Japan. To compose a team of assassins, he goes and recruits young children who’s parents were murdered. Retreating into a secret location in the mountains, he trains these children to become skilled and deadly assassins. When the children became young adults, their master announces that they are ready to engage in their “mission.” For the first time ever, these assassins, who knew nothing but the way of the sword, are let out into the real world.
It was fun for the first 20 minutes but then my eyes began to drift around the room, the film just couldn’t hold my attention. The reason why its on my blog in the first place is because Azumi is different. Not only does Kitamura demonstrate that he can actually direct actors, he also shows that he can put together an excellently paced film that shifts comfortably in mood and style.
Making her feature film debut, Aya Ueto has truly managed to breathe life into the character of Azumi. Her performance is solid on both the purely dramatic and the more physically demanding side of things, and believe it or not, but when you see her charging into a raging crowd of a hundred or so attacking killers and thieves, it’s really not that hard to believe that she could actually hold her own against them. Maybe I was being a bit harsh with my earlier statement, because if you can stick it out….honestly, in the last thirty minutes of the movie, there’ll be so many moments when you go “Holy………..that was sweet,” you’ll forget those earlier complaints.
Ryuhei Kitamura has crafted something within this highly entertaining and exciting cinematic landscape that just worked for me on a lot of levels, but that’s not to say that it’s everybody’s cup of tea. This is not Seven Samurai. But, the action is fast and constant and the moral questions that are addressed raise the movie above the normal ninja film. Azumi cross-breeds action, humor, and emotion into one big triumph of film-making.