Kiri (Japan 2015)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 11/1/15
Director: Koichi Sakamoto
Cast: Yumiko Shaku, Yasuaki Kurata, Yuka Ohnishi (?)

Yumiko Shaku is a master assassin named Kiri who works for the venerable Yasuaki Kurata. The details are nearly incomprehensible as there are no subtitles, but everything revolves around an exclusive web site called "Killing Auction", where freelance assassins can bid on targets to kill. It initially plays out as a series of disconnected vignettes and flashbacks, but eventually a killer named Triple-X shows up and starts making a mess of things. She and Kiri share history at Kurata's brutal training camp, and they inevitably end up fighting each other.

Koichi Sakamoto is a busy man these days, and seems to be cranking out a new movie about every six months. This one is surprisingly violent and bloody, and is a much better production than many of his recent efforts. The stuntwork is excellent, as you would expect from Sakamoto and Alpha Stunts, but the camera tends to move around too much and obscure some of the action. The combat is primarily knife based, which is unusual to see, and adds an extra sense of danger to the close quarters action. The film also has a subtle and emotionally resonant music score, which is pleasant to listen to. Yumiko Shaku delivers a superb performance, both physically and dramatically, and is at the top of her game. The other actresses are very attractive and perform admirably, even though their action scenes are a bit soft and slow. A stern and stoic Yasuaki Kurata has little more than an extended cameo, but he brings a sense of class and dignity to the production. I think Yuka Ohnishi ("Sukeban Deka" (1987) ) also has a cameo, but it's hard to tell. Provided you can deal with the lack of subtitles and the impenetrable narrative, fans of female oriented action will likely be pleased.