Two things tonight: This review will be short and will include a fairly big spoiler. In hindsight, the spoiler isn’t that surprising if one researches this film on even the most basic level, but putting it out there just in case.
Now-a-days when I think of revenge stories, I think of things like Taken or something, which kickstarted a little mini-craze of Liam Neeson rescuing people from bad guys in Hollywood. Whether or not this was a good thing is a topic for another time (likely never, but who knows?). But way back when, prior to even the invention of Star Wars, there was a modest production over in Japan called Lady Snowblood, which was based on the manga of the same name. It was a pretty solid revenge flick.
I quite liked this production, even though the execution can be campy every once in a while. Stylish and straightforward, it reminds me ever so slightly of Godzilla, something one person I know will be thrilled to hear. Everything from the music, the writing, the use of visual symbolism, and the icy pale skin of the lead just feels so perfectly polished. When it wants to be.
Interestingly enough, the action is among my least favorite parts of the film. It’s kind of funny sometimes, just the way blood spurts out like a hose. It’s obviously pretty impactful given the time period and country of origin, which, from what I’m aware, tends to shy away from grotesquely violent acts. I mean, Yuki cuts a hanging corpse in half in this. Yeesh. Sometimes it’s pretty off-putting, other times Yuki is fighting off five different dudes and they’re waiting for her to be done with one guy before they attack. Kind of funny.
Now, a pretty vocal point to all of this was of vengeance and destiny. Yuki was born literally for revenge—her mother went and had sex with anyone she could find just so she could bear a child that could enact her revenge. Once born, she endured strict training to mold her into an ultimate killing machine. Fun fact: they show a little girl (maybe 7 or 8?) nearly nude. It was preeeeeeetty uncomfortable. Anyway, as the story continues, it keeps leading up to this subtle, but damning conclusion that once her vengeance had been completed, she’d have no reason to live anymore. In the end, she’s shot AND stabbed.
Gonna have to go on the side of “I wish she didn’t survive.” It would’ve been more poetic in a way to have her perish just as her job was completed. It was leading up to it, so it seemed appropriate, only to subvert that expectation. Perhaps I should praise it for that—I can see others doing so. But for me, I think it would’ve been good there.
It’s clearly old-fashioned, with a bit of an edge that’s rare from films of that era/country. I really enjoyed it, though, for the way it told its story and stayed true to what it wanted to do. There’s a nice feel to this film, and I think it was the easiest film to watch so far—I blinked and I was 35 minutes in. The flair, the facial zoom-ins, and even the cheesiness ended up being pretty charming. I will probably hate the sequel.
Final Score: 7.5/10
The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.
For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!