Sengoku: Bloody Agent (Japan 2013)

Rating: **
Review Date: 5/2/15
Cast: Ayumi Kinoshita, Yoshiyuki Yamaguchi, Rie Nishiwaki

Aika (Ayumi Kinoshita), Hien (Yoshiyuki Yamaguchi), Soldier, and Momo are a team of specialists who decide to take out a Yakuza boss who is dealing in narcotics. Unfortunately, the team loses one of their members in a follow-up operation, and Aika vows vengeance. The second half of the film revolves around the remaining team members raiding the bad guy's warehouse and fighting their way through the ranks to get a shot at the big boss. There's also some drama thrown in about a bittersweet reunion with Aika's long lost sister (super cool Rie Nishiwaki), but it's hard to put together a back story without any subtitles. The film ends on a fairly satisfying note, but then the credits are interrupted with a completely bizarre and nonsensical musical number. Where the hell did that come from? It totally spoils the tone of an otherwise serious production.

It's a fun and unassuming low budget action film, but the production is a bit lacking. Sets are dressed with sheets draped over windows, the camera loses focus on several occasions, and the camera balance is off just enough to be distracting. The fight scenes are exceptionally good for a production of this caliber, although the execution tends to be a bit soft and slow. The exception is Yoshiyuki Yamaguchi. He knows his stuff and his fights are a lot of fun to watch. He also shows up to the final battle with a bag of ten katanas, and proceeds to use a different sword on each opponent. I've never seen that done before. Ayumi Kinoshita is very cute and handles her action scenes with conviction and flair. She doesn't pack a lot of power, but her attitude and form are solid, and her moves are fluid and graceful. Her weapon of choice is a bladed tonfa, which is fun to see in action. Unfortunately, she enters the final battle wearing a ridiculous maxi-skirt, which is both unattractive and impractical. It also ensures that she won't be running or throwing any kicks during the second half of the film. I wonder who thought that was a good idea?

The description on the box proudly proclaims "no wires, no doubles, no CG!", which is highly commendable. Unfortunately, the CG part is a blatant lie, as the film uses digital blood and digital shell ejection in its action scenes. As I've mentioned before, the biggest problem with digital blood is its lack of persistence, and that's especially true here. Blood erupts all over the place and then simply evaporates into thin air. Actually, the film features one shot that shows blood on a wall, but when the camera pans, the blood doesn't move with it! That's a serious backfire of digital technology that could have been easily fixed by simply splashing some red substance on the wall and panning across it. So, while the film has good intentions and its heart is in the right place, it's betrayed by low production values and isn't as enjoyable as it could be. However, it's much more genuine and sincere than a lot of similar action fare.