Geisha Assassin – Old School Action

Sometimes there is nothing wrong with kicking it old school, a fact brought home by watching Geisha Assassin (aka Geisha vs Ninjas – nice, right up there with Shaolin Challenges Ninja for film titles that don’t screw around). Back in the 1970s when kung fu movies were being churned out of Hong Kong and Taiwan just as fast as the performers could throw a punch, the standard plot was often little more complicated than ‘You killed my father, I want revenge.’ Popular permutations included ‘You killed my master, I want revenge’ and ‘You snubbed my wife at a dinner party in the Hamptons last season, I want revenge.’

Geisha Assassin DVD CoverDirected by stunt choreographer Go Ohara, Geisha Assassin is not afraid to embrace the cliché with both hands and take it home to meet mum and dad and to start picking out the flower arrangements for the big day. Kotono (Minami Tsukui) may be the picture of the demure, delicate geisha but she is the heir to the Yamabe School of sword-fighting. Her pop’s old pupil Hyo-e (Shigeru Kanai) killed Kotono’s dad in a duel and now she wants to sit down and talk about the mistakes of the past, the power of forgiveness and about buying a subscription to The Watchtower. No wait, she wants revenge.

To exact her retribution on Hyo-e. first Kotono must slice and dice her way through his various minions and defenders, which include a squad of ninja, a hulking monk, a priest, some weird zombie-like dudes who use a fighting technique that involves throwing their own heads at Kotono, and a Ainu woman spoiling for a scrap. That’s pretty much the whole deal. This is no place for subtext, introspection or monologues on the quality of mercy, this is the time for taking names and breaking faces.

Go Ohara knows how to shoot a fight scene and he covers the gamut from sword duels to a wonderful tussle between Kotono and the imposing monk Go-an (Satoshi Hakuzo), complete with dialogue

Minami Tsukui and Satoshi Hakuzo

Are you sure you know shiatsu?

straight from the Hong Kong Book of Kung Fu. “Excellent, for a woman,” sneers Go-an. “You see me as a woman?’ replies Kotono, “Don’t cry over losing to me!” The only thing that could possibly improve this scene would be someone saying either, “Your fancy Western tricks are no match for real Chinese boxing,” or “You’re digging your grave with your mouth, my friend.” Still, we can’t have everything.

The movie was produced by Jolly Roger, the same good people who gave us Chanbara Beauty (a girl in a cowboy hat and a bikini fights zombies), on which Go Ohara was stunt choreographer. Like Chanbara Beauty, Geisha Assassin is very low budget and shot on video, but what it lacks in dollars (or yen) it makes up for with enthusiasm. The cast really hurl themselves into the action. The battle between Kotono and Go-an sees them knocking each other back and forth across a room in a fairly lengthy continuous take reminiscent in shooting style, if not choreography, of the Shaolin

Go Go Geisha!

Go Go Geisha!

films of Chang Cheh. The other stand out is Kaori Sakai as the Ainu warrior-woman, whose donnybrook with Kotono winds up with them both desperately slugging at each other in the rain.

For my money, you can keep your big budget historical martial arts claptrap like Hero (‘Ooh look, we’re flying over a lake and everything is perfectly colour co-ordinated.’ I don’t care – punch something!!!) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (‘I can never reveal my true feelings of love.’ Do I give a crap? Punch somebody in the nuts before the ennui kills me!!!) Geisha Assassin gives me exactly what I want from a martial arts movie. 78 minutes of almost non-stop mayhem. That’s old school, baby.

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