Azumi 2 (2006)
By: David Michael Brown on October 20, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Eastern Eye (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.78:1 Japanese DD 5.1, Japanese DTS 5.1. English Subtitles. 108 minutes
The Movie
Director: Shusuke Kaneko
Starring: Aya Ueto, Chiaki Kuriyama, Tak Sakaguchi
Screenplay: Mataichiro Yamamoto, Yoshiaki Kawajiri Music: Eiji Kawamura
Country: Japan
Last time we met Azumi, the cute Japanese assassin raised as an orphan and trained as a killer, she was in a bad way. Her fellow orphans and assassins had been slain by an evil warlord's son leaving only herself and her friend Nagara to wreak revenge. Azumi 2 continues the story set in the 1600s as Japan is on the brink of civil war. They are joined by Kozue as they head out on their mission to kill Masayuki Sanada and bring peace to the war torn countryside.

Once again Aya Ueto is wonderful in the title role of Azumi; unfeasibly cute and never messing up her perfectly cut fringe, she massacres all who come between her destiny. All eyes will also be on Kill Bill's Go Go Yubari: Chiaki Kuriyama. She brings the same vengeful cuteness she brought to her character in Tarantino's Kung Fu epic. Ultimately she is a double-crossing vixen with blood on her hands but you can't help but love her. It will be interesting to see if she makes further inroads into Hollywood or continues to work in Japan on films like this and Battle Royale.

The action scenes, as you would expect, are fabulous. The sword play is breathtaking and the splashy, if computer generated, effects add to the gory fun. Special mention has to be made about two sequences; the first a showdown between Azumi and an opponent armed with never ending razor wire has delightfully macabre payoff that plays like a cross between Monty Python and Takashi Miike. Secondly any scene that features the huge Japanese man mountain armed with a boomerang style staff equipped with huge knives at either end. He hurls the thing around with wicked abandon slicing and dicing all in its path.

The sequel does lack some of the stylistic flourishes that made the original Azumi so enjoyable and there is far too much long-winded exposition this time around. The conclusion being a classic example, after witnessing the destruction of almost an entire army at the hands of Azumi the film manages to remain downbeat and somber, despite the adrenalin fueled carnage that has just transpired. The two battling warlords seem to stop and chat for an interminably long time, maybe some of that is due to the subtitles, you can never tell how accurate they really are but the film does seem to grind to a halt despite trying desperately to give us an emotionally shattering ending.
The 1.78:1 image is sharp and clear but seems a bit washed out and pale during some sequences.
The 5.1 and DTS soundtracks are dynamic and punchy. The surround isn't tested to its full capabilities but the battle scenes really make you feel as though you are there.
Extra Features
A selection of trailers and a stills gallery are joined by an enjoyable Making of featurette that follows the character of Azumi from her comic book origins through to this sequel.
The Verdict
Adrenalin charged bloodshed and a cute Japanese girl with a sword. Add to that a winning performance from Chiaki Kuriyama and you've almost got a win win situation on your hands. It's a shame that some of the style and substance hasn't followed on from the original film but the story of Azumi is definitely worth revisiting.
Movie Score
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