Geisha Assassin is the debut feature from action choreographer Go Ohara. Having worked on low budget hits Death Trance and Chanbara Beauty, Go turns his attention to directorial duties and takes new girl Minami Tsukui along for the ride. Minami stars as Kotomi Yamabe, a cute but clinical assassin on a quest to avenge the death of her father. Along the way she takes on a series of fighters, including crazed monks, lightning fast ninjas and murderous demons. I think that pretty much covers the plot; lets get down to business then.
There’s a good chance I could write this review on the back of a matchbox. There’s very little storyline and even fewer positive aspects. There’s nothing good to say about a film as cheap and cheerless as this. Formerly known as Geisha vs. Ninja, it doesn’t take a genius to work out why they changed the name for the U.K. release. The same thing happens when a criminal leaves prison, or when a witness in a major investigation needs to disappear; clearly the distributors of Geisha Assassin didn’t want us to track down the original version in a hurry. Then again, maybe I’m being too harsh.
The plot amounts to little more than ‘would-be heroine wanders through the forest and takes on a number of assassins, moving from one soulless encounter to the next’. There is the occasional flashback but precious little character development to speak of. It’s hard to bond with a character that has no, um, character, but the flashbacks deliver a series of fight scenes and nothing more, as Kotomi learns the art of swordplay from her father. His death drives her forward on her quest, taking down numerous enemies until she comes face to face with his killer, then they fight and the plot gathers pace. Sorry, that’s pretty much where the plot ends as well; the villain of the piece is given a chance to explain himself and we move on to the next encounter.
Geisha Assassin is about as tiresome as they come. Repetitive swordfights are all well and good if they’re delivered with style and grace, but the direction here is mind numbing. It’s not big, it’s not clever, it’s the martial arts equivalent of buying a high powered motorcycle and riding it around the garden. Fun for about five minutes but ultimately pointless. Go Ohara can direct action sequences in his sleep, but the other films he worked on had more depth. The fight choreography is fine for what it is, but it never threatens to escape the confines of low budget filmmaking. Minami Tsukui acquits herself well enough with a glimmering blade but she’s not asked to test herself on any other playing field.
I could have made a film like this in my garden, selling the bike for a camera and filming my neighbours fighting over the last burger on a barbeque. The fact remains that Geisha Assassin – or whatever they want to call it – lacks the killer thrust of its contemporaries. One to avoid then. You’ll be better off seeking out Robo-geisha instead. Now there’s a film that can’t fail to entertain. AW