Japanese B-movies always seem to grab my attention when I’m browsing a DVD store. Normally they’re entertaining as hell with over the top scenes that make me laugh myself stupid. With a name like Geisha VS Ninjas, how could I possibly pass this movie up? Unfortunately for me, this movie is a derivative and cheap excuse for an action/martial arts film that has almost no story at all and fights scenes which you have seen the like of before, but done so much better.
Kotomi (Minami Tsukui) is probably the second most deadly geisha to ever live (RoboGeisha still ranks number one). On a mission to avenge her father’s death, she tracks down the killer, a samurai Katagiri Hyo-e (Shigeru Kanai). Of course, killing him isn’t as easy as it would seem. She must get through all of the warriors that stand in between her and the samurai, each warrior showing an increasing amount of skill.
Watching this movie is like watching your friend play the bosses of a hack and slash video game. Hell, I wished that I was playing a video game instead of just watching a movie play out like one. If I was asked what the movie was about in a more casual way than this review, I’d probably just say that a geisha has to fight a bunch of people. That’s pretty much all the movie is with some footage of her walking around the forest. There’s no suspense, no intensity, and really no payoff.
I don’t mind if a movie is made on a very small budget, but if you have these budget constraints, you have to think about what kind of movie you are trying to make. Low budget dramas and horror films work out just fine for me normally, as long as there’s a backbone to support it. Low budget action films are more difficult (although films like El Mariachi shows that it can be done), especially if its a costume piece at the same time. I will say that some of the costumes look really nice. The geisha looks like a geisha and the samurai looks like a samurai. The actual photography of the film is distractingly bad. It looks like a movie that was shot on the director’s own personal camera. Maybe if the story was better, I wouldn’t be so critical of the camera work.
While the camerawork and image quality may look cheap, I will say some of the cinematography looks really nice, especially in the beginning and the end. When the action gets really dramatic during the climax, the scene almost becomes theatrical with hard light blocking off the background and really focusing on the action. It actually makes that scene stick out and easy to appreciate. That’s about all you can appreciate.
As I’ve said, this movie is a sorry excuse for a martial arts movie. While it does show some respect to the classic martial arts films of the 70s and the modern masterpieces like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, it made me feel like I’d rather be doing anything else. Luckily, this movie is only 79 minutes long, so the torturous boredom didn’t have to last too long. Even if you love martial arts, samurai, and wuxia films, Geisha VS Ninjas is a weak attempt at storytelling that is better off being ignored.