In 1999, during a family gathering in Japan, Akemi’s family was gunned down by a hidden assassin. She was whisked away for protection and never knew what happened to her family. 20 years later in Brazil, Akemi (MASUMI) lives a quiet life, training in self defense, working her mediocre job, and singing karaoke with her girlfriends. Things get a bit hinky when she’s attacked by three drunk men and successfully defends herself.

Meanwhile, in a hospital bed, Shiro (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) wakes up not knowing where or who he is, just that he was found with a katana on him. After a daring and full frontal escape, Shiro is on his way. Unknown to both Akemi and Shiro, Takeshi (Tsuyoshi Ihara) has been tasked with finding the both of them before the Yakuza does. After receiving some vital clues Akemi soon discovers the truth about where she comes from.

Beautifully photographed on location in Brazil and with some creative lighting, bloody effects and some stellar fight choreography, the movie acts like a chic dive bar, nicer on the outside than on the inside. It’s a slow burn that fizzles out at the end like an old roman candle. It spends too much time on world building and not enough time on character development, not to mention that roof top showdown which ends with little fanfare. As I am not familiar with Danilo Beyruth’s graphic novel, which this was adapted from, I can only assume that it is more about Shiro and less about Akemi.

Co-written by the director, Vicente Amorim, along with Kimi Lee, L.G. Tubaldini Jr. & Fernando Toste, what could have been a fun dive into the Brazilian members of the Yakuza ends up being a bastardized John Wick-esque thriller that’s not as thrilling. It’s nice to look at, but it leaves your mind as soon as it’s over. Even the mid-credit sequence that potentially sets up a sequel is mediocre and fails to inspire anticipation. The film attempts to set up a franchise with this being the first instalment, unfortunately like all cookie-cutter action films before it, it’s unable to bring anything new to the genre. Great violence and attractive leads can only take you so far.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Signature Entertainment presents Yakuza Princess on Digital Platforms 13th September

Reviewed on September 16, 2021 (screener provided by Signature Entertainment). Rating: Cert. 18. Running time: 111 min. 

PRODUCTION: A Signature Entertainment release of a Filmland International production. Producers: L.G. Tubaldini Jr. & Andre Skaf. Executive producers: Fernanda Mandriola & Brent Travers. 

CREW: Director: Vicente Amorim. Writers: Vicente Amorim, Kimi Lee, L.G. Tubaldini Jr. & Fernando Toste (based on the graphic novel “Samurai Shiro” by Danilo Beyruth). Editing: Danilo Lemos. Music: Fabiano Krieger & Lucas Marcier. Cinematography: Gustavo Hadba.

CAST: Tsuyoshi Ihara, MASUMI, Eijiro Ozaki, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Mariko Takai & Toshiji Takeshima.

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