According to the blurb on the back of my DVD:
Serialised since 1994, Azumi, a comic by Yu Koyama, has developed an avid following; shocking and seizing readers with its audacious style and extreme violence. Now, courtesy of acclaimed director Ryhuhei Kitamura (Versus), it comes to the screen in this high octane adaptation.
Azumi (Aya Ueto) is a beautiful young girl, trained from childhood to become a fearless assassin. Now she must face the ultimate test, fighting to defeat a band of merciless warlords. Bringing together stunning swordplay, bloody fight scenes and unforgettable characters, Azumi is not to be missed.
I’m not convinced that the synopsis really captures how much is going on in this film, but there is so much going on, and so many scenes that rely on you not knowing quite what will happen next, that I really don’t want to give too much away. I will note, however, that Azumi is one of a band of assassins tasked with killing off warlords in order to bring peace to war-torn Japan.
As the blurb notes, this film is directed by Ryûhei Kitamura whose earlier film, Versus, I talked about back in May. Azumi film retains much of the same sensibility as Versus, but on a much grander scale. While Versus gave us of gangsters and zombies stuck in a forest, Azumi ups the ante immeasurably with assassins, ninjas, warlords and entire armies to contend with. It all adds up to a genuinely spectacular film.
Again, Kitamura manages to make a stylish and stylised film that feels like a two hour, action sequence. There is just enough plot injected into the proceedings to hold your attention and the characters are well rounded enough to ensure that you do care about what they are go through. There is even something of a theme as the narrative briefly touches on the way in which our history determines our choices.
All of this makes for a truly spectacular (and blood soaked) samurai epic. The film also demonstrates that, in the right hands, a straightforward story well told van be very effective indeed.