By: John M Jerva
The Review: This movie was just too good that I had to add my two cents worth to hype it for my audience. It’s true that action fans have been starving for top quality action entertainment ever since the pandemic started and although we’ve had some good entries in the genre, we are still awaiting the arrival of a film that deems to be titled one of the best, if not the best, action film of the year. Well look no further as one serious contender has arrived in Yakuza Princess.
The movie which stars newcomer MASUMI as well as veteran actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers is a limb slicing, rip roaring blood fest that needs to be seen by any serious action aficionado. Helmed by Vincente Amorim, this is one brutal and visceral entry in a genre that is in need of worthy titles.
Starring is singer and actress MASUMI who plays 21 year old Akemi who is living in Sao Paul, Brazil. Fun fact, this city houses the largest Japanese community outside of Japan in case you were keeping score. She is an orphan that by chance discovers that she is the legit heiress to half of a ruthless Yakuza clan and her once stoic life is about to take one serious 180. Add in an amnesiac stranger (Meyers) who believes that a mysterious Katana sword holds the clues to his past as well as offers a connection to Akemi and with a stone cold lethal Yakuza assassin (Tsuyoshi Ihara, who gave Scott Adkins a run for his money in Ninja) hot on their trail, the two unlikely allies must wage a blood soaked war against the clan that will only leave one side standing when the dust settles.
Yakuza Princess is a brooding and beautifully shot revenge thriller that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as some other Yakuza themed classics to come before it like 1974’s classic The Yakuza which starred Robert Mitchum and featured some ahead of its time action sequences which also featured Ken Takakura . Throughout the years, Yakuza movies have always been a win with fans and I’m glad to say that here’s another that will certainly fill collector’s shelves upon physical media release.
This is much more than an action film however as the script which was penned by Tubaldini Shelling, Kimo Lee, Fernando Toste, and Amorim himself serves up some good old fashioned twists and turns that will give the audience more to focus on then just the awesome slicking and dicing on display. The film which is derived from a graphic novel subsequently titled Samurai Shiro does the source material proud with its atmosphere and stylish neon lit photography. This is a movie that also has some very well drawn out characters in it and even though there’s enough action for two films, time is spent on development so we care about who we are watching.
Director Vincente Amorim keeps the proceedings moving at a fever pitch and there isn’t too much in terms of drag when it comes to the movement of the plot. Too many times, action films suffer from the dreaded snag in the middle of the flick but here, from start to finish, viewers are never bored and the pacing is as sharp and lethal as a sword slicing through flesh.
The action is the definite draw here and MASUMI, who I never really knew anything about prior to this release, rises to the occasion as our heroine who must take on a bloodthirsty army to save what is truly hers. MASUMI brings it in the film’s expertly crafted fight sequences and she is one to keep your eye on in the future. She has clearly thrown her har into the ring for top female action star of the future.
Yakuza Princess is punctuated by some of the most brutal and bloody set pieces in recent years and thankfully they avoid the cringe worthy shaky cam effect. Each altercation is clearly shot and edited to showcase the performers on stage and MASUMI without a doubt utilizes her on screen skills to the fullest and even Meyers gets to show off some bad ass skills more than once in the film’s many jarring and bloodthirsty scenes of balletic fight choreography. The violence is harsh and in your face as limbs are severed and blood flows like wine from a spilt bottle. It truly is an experience to see such fierce and chaotic fight scenes done with the audience in mind.
Overall: In today’s day and age of modern action cinema, there are those few sleeper hits that remind us just how fun this genre can be when done right. Director Vincente Amorin has managed to craft a graphic novel-esque Japanese action-thriller with mood and substance which hits all the right nerves and deserves to be mentioned when conversations come up for best action movies of the year. The cast, led by a fierce and able MASUMI, are top notch and deliver performances that only accent the violence on hand even more.
The action sequences are thrilling and expertly choreographed with intricate maneuvers and swordplay that would make the Samurai of old proud. It’s violent but it has a purpose and when it hits, it hits with a deafening degree of blunt force trauma mixed with aesthetic artistry. This is one action pic any serious action aficionado should check out and it is without a doubt first rate and first class caliber entertainment and one of the most exciting action films of the year.