Geisha Assassin on DVD

Thursday, 25 March 2010 14:16

Billed as a period martial arts movie directed in a modern style, “Geisha Assassin” has the briefest of plots and barely any dialogue. Kotono (Minami Tsukui) is a vivacious geisha with a score to settle. As a child she witnessed the murder of her father, Yamabe (a very stern Masaki Nomura), at the hands of his top student, Hyo-e (Shigeru Kanai).

Abandoning her geisha ethics but not the uniform, Kotono soon comes up against Hyo-e; after a crushing defeat she quickly realises that she must prove herself and hone her skills against an array of henchmen, before finally getting another chance at her father’s executioner. One’s heart sinks at the news that this film was directed by Go Ohara, better known as a stunt and martial arts choreographer. I have lost track of the number of times a pop video director or special effects expert has moved into direction and trashed the first movie they got their hands on.

Geisha Assassin on DVDOn the evidence of the first five minutes of “Geisha Assassin”, I was dreading the remaining 73. The entire film is shot with exaggerated motion blur and it is quite jarring until you get used to it. The lighting of some scenes is also to bright and lacking in atmosphere, lending the imagery a cheap video quality.

Fortunately, things do improve substantially. As the majority of the movie consists of kung fu and sword fighting battles, the persistent ghosting starts to feel fitting. Fight scene after fight scene fails to become tiresome because the director constantly changes the variables, and mixes up the choreography. For example, some of the action takes place at night or at dusk; sometimes it is in the pouring rain and mud where the exhausted fighters rely on instinct alone, or shrouded in smoke; one battle occurs in a bamboo forest, the next in the entranceway to a temple.

Throw in the pleasing variety of combatants, both human and supernatural, each wielding staffs, knives, swords, bows, exploding ninja bombs or just plain old fists, and fans of martial arts will find plenty to sate their genre thirst.

Tsukui proves herself a worthy leading lady capable of crushing skulls and gutting her opponents. She does appear to be holding back and neither do her adversaries, and this commitment is backed up by some choice kung fu sound effects to help sell each blow and sword swish. I am not normally a fan of wirework, and although the technique is used extensively here it is done at such an exciting pace that it feels right. As Kotono progresses through the film and picks up layers of cuts and bruises, so she also modifies her outfit, gradually leaving the visually delicate geisha behind and looking more and more like the resilient fighter she needs to become to take out Hyo-e.

In summary, this is a very straight forward, unpretentious action movie that will appeal to fans who can disengage their brains. If they go in expecting to see a movie that could easily be an unsophisticated video game adaptation, complete with boss fights, playing levels and cut scenes, they will not be disappointed, even though the finale is a mild disappointment! “Geisha Assassin” is released on 5 April on the MVM DVD label, certificate ‘15’, RRP £15.99, or less from


Movie Review: “Geisha Assassin” (2008)



Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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