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Sometime in the future, maybe an alternate future: For 500 years the
country (we never learn which country) has been in isolation, but now it
resembles more a wasteland than anything else. When the emperor was
dethroned his guards have been disbanded, and since they have ganged up
again and become killer-for-hire organisations, like the Takemikazuchi.
Yuki (Yumiko Shaku) is the most cold-blooded of the Takemikazuchi, she
doesn't even refrain from killing her colleagues should they have betrayed
the organisation ... but then she meets an old man, Kuka (Yoichi Numata),
who tells her the truth about her mother, that she was actually killed by
the leader of the Takemikazuchi, Byakurai (Kyusaku Shimada) because she
wanted to disband the organisation ... and suddenly Yuki finds herself on
the run from her own organisation, and only narrowly escapes thanks to the
help of Takashi (Hideaki Ito), who on the outside seems to be little more
than the owner of a gas station out in the middle of nowhere, but actually
he's a revolutionary ... only Kidokoro (Shiro Sano), his superior, has
turned the revolution into pure terrorism, and now Takashi wants out and
only care for his sister Aya (Yoko Maki) after she saw her parents killed
when she was a child ...
Anyways, after Yuki has spent the night at Takashi's place, she returns
to face the Takemikazuchi and kills a great many of them, but is also
seriously wounded and makes another narrow escape, back to Takashi's
Takashi nurses her back to health, and the two start to like each
other. Yuki seems to give Takashi back his happiness, and she herself
feels emotions with him the very first time. Soon enough, they decide to
leave their past behind and leave the country together for good. But of
course before they can do that, their past catches up with them: Yuki has
to fight and slash her way through virtually the entire Takemikazuchi,
including Byakurai, who almost seems to powerful for her. But after she
has made the Takemikazuchi history for good, she returns to Takashi's
place only to find him and his sister shot dead by Kidokoro.
Based on the same manga as the Lady
Snowblood movies from the 1970's and sharing quite a bit of
plot with them, the film couldn't be more different in everything else: In
style, Princess Blade is almost melancholic, in tone it's dead serious, it
lacks the colourful tableaus of the earlier films, and instead of being a
period piece it is set in a netherworld between now and the far future.
So instead of being a remake of the earlier movies, the film has much
to go for in its own right: True, it might lack decent characterisations
(all the characters are two-dimensional at best and their backstories are
little more than tried-and-true clichés) and its story isn't all that
original let alone inventive, but an elegant yet gritty directiong job and
perfectly staged action scenes (mostly awe-inspiring swordsplay) courtesey of Donnie Yen easily make up for
that, accompanied by expert pacing that even allows aprupt changes of
tempo every now and again.
All that said, the film might not be a masterpiece, it has its
ramifications, but it is nothing short of great entertainment.