27th Oct2014

‘Kite’ Blu-ray Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Samuel L. Jackson, India Eisley, Callan McAuliffe, Carl Beukes, Deon Lotz, DeVille Vannik, Zane Meas, Lionel Newton, Jaco Muller, Terence Bridgett | Written by Brian Cox | Directed by Ralph Ziman


Yasuomi Umetsu’s (chief animator for Arms Corporation who has also worked as a designer on Akira, Spriggan, Elfen Lied and Casshern) original anime Kite was, when first released in 1998, a highly controversial graphic story of hard, gory action and illicit eroticism. Banned in certain countries across the globe due to its scenes of rape and revenge, in Japan it has sold nearly a million DVD units.  It has also been released in Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Russian, Czech Republic, Slovakia and the United States – where it remains popular; yet the original OVA and its sequel, have never had a UK release. In fact this US film adaptation is the first time the franchise has been legitimately available in this country.

Set in a vast multicultural and decimated urban landscape, post-financial collapse, Kite follows Sawa (Eisley) – a young girl orphaned in her early teens when an unknown assailant brutally murdered her police detective father and mother – who lives a a secret double life as a covert assassin. Now 18, Sawa is a human time-bomb intent upon eliminating members of the flesh-cartels whom she presumes murdered her family – men who exploit the defenceless children of a collapsed society for the pleasure of high-paying, foreign clients. Her father’s ex-partner, Inspector Karl Aker (Jackson), is a renegade cop who believes that the only way to eradicate the problems of a corrupt and failed state is to take the law into his own hands. Sawa and Aker have sworn to avenge her parents’ deaths, by taking out the head of the cartel, a mysterious man known only as The Emir…

Take Mathilda, the 12 year-old wannabe assassin from Leon, The Professional; age her a few years; get her addicted to drugs; then stick her in a quasi-post apocalyptic setting and that’s essentially Kite. Of course this is based on an anime so instead of the strong-willed heroine of Leon, we get an objectified vixen as the hero – one who it seems can only fight in her underwear and tends to get the shit kicked out of her a little too often to be considered even remotely good at her “job”. Yes, the masochistic tropes of anime are present even here in an American production, with our heroine Sawa undergoing abuse at the hands of a myriad of men, and some women, but then when Sawa is constantly the victim in the film, then that’s the likely outcome really. You see Sawa is not only hooked on the drug Amp but she has parental issues (her’s having been killed when she was a child) and her current father-figure, played in by-the-numbers fashion by Samuel L. Jackson, has a tendency to feed her drug habit rather than help her get clean! Don’t worry though – the reason for that becomes clear come the films conclusion… although, honestly, it was obvious to me once we started seeing flashbacks to Sawa’ parents death.

Kite apparently had a lot of issues coming to the screen, with directors and produced jumping in and out of the project for years before Ralph Ziman took the reigns and brought the film to fruition. In that time we’ve had a number of iconic heroines hit the big screen – none more celebrated than Hit Girl from the Kick-Ass movies – which means that Kite loses some of the impact it would have had, had the film been released when originally announced. Although respect to star India Eisley, who does a tremendous job with what she has, shedding her goody-goody image from US television to convincingly portray a drug addict. come call girl. come assassin – had this film hit cinemas before Mark Millar’s iconic character I sure many would have singled her out as one to watch. On the plus side, if you can get past the many panty shots of Eisley there is some decent action on display, she kicks major ass (including using a dildo, with hidden knife, as weapon) and even despite her small frame you believe she has the conviction and the skills in her fighting – although it’s about time fight choreographers find something other than parkour to demonstrate people’s fighting skill.

Don’t go into Kite expecting anything close to the original anime in terms of explicit sexuality and violence and you won’t be disappointed. This is a solid B-movie futuristic actioner that will scratch that “all-action, no story” itch we all get from time to time. It’s a definitely improvement over the likes Sucker Punch, with which this film shares many “male-gaze” ideals – in fact this is a masterpiece of restraint in comparison to that film!

*** 3/5

Kite is available on DVD and Blu-ray now from Anchor Bay UK.


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