2014, Videovision Entertainment/Distant Horizon/Detalle Films
Yasuomi Umetsu (original anime)
Brian Cox (screenplay)
India Eisley (Sawa)
Callan McAuliffe (Oburi)
Samuel L. Jackson (Karl Aker)
Deon Lotz (Detective Prinsloo)
Carl Beukes (Vic Thornhill)
Jolene Martin (Laila Pilay)
Danny Keogh (Clive Thornhill)
Terence Bridgett (Staggie)
Based on the controversial 1998 Japanese anime, this action thriller delves into the complicated world of a teen female assassin.
At the age of 12, Sawa saw her parents viciously murdered. Taken under the wing of her father’s ex-partner Karl Aker, Sawa has become a deadly assassin. Six years has passed and now, she begins her quest to find out who her parents’ killer is and must learn the reason behind it while she continues doing jobs for Aker.
Aker is attempting to take down the Numbers Gang, a menace to society since the major financial collapse that has rocked the city. To make money, the Numbers Gang has taken it upon themselves to delve into human trafficking. Until Sawa’s arrival, things had went smoothly. However, as Sawa continues her mission, she receives help from another young assassin, Oburi, who not only has rescued her on numerous occasions, but may be the key in Sawa’s quest to avenge her parents.
Having never seen the original anime directed by Yasuomi Umetsu, from what is known this live-action adaptation is quite toned down as the anime’s controversy revolved around some pretty graphic sexual content. Here, the live action adaptation takes that content down nearly all the way and focuses on the matter at hand: a young assassin’s quest for revenge while trying to take down a human trafficking ring. The tone of this version is more akin to a Luc Besson action thriller with the feel and perhaps budget of a South African action film, which makes sense considering that the film was shot in location in Johannesburg.
India Eisley does pretty well as Sawa, the young assassin who is the focus of the film. The second generation actress (her mother is 70’s film star Olivia Hussey) plays Sawa as someone who not only is loyal to her job, but also possesses a sense of tortured soul as seen in very strange-like flashbacks of her parents’ death due to the fact that she has been taking a drug since the incident that is supposed to wipe her memory, yet it comes back in little vignettes. Think of her character somewhat as Hit-Girl from Kick Ass, minus the costume.
While it may seem like he lacks in screen time, Australian actor Callum McAuliffe plays a very vital role in Oburi, a young fighter who has ties to Sawa’s past and through his numerous attempts to help her, tries to convince her of what had happened those years ago. As for Samuel L. Jackson, his character of Karl Aker is meant to be a combination of Sawa’s two mentors in the anime adaptation. However, he is more akin to one as there does not seem to be any sort of sexual tension between himself and Sawa, but more of a mentor and perhaps in some sense, father figure, to her.
The action here is quite bloody at times. Sawa comes up with some inventive methods of killing her victims from blowing their heads off to even impaling one thug through the mouth with a pipe. There are some nicely shot parkour-like sequences courtesy of coordinator DeVille Vannik, who also has a small role as one of the Numbers Gang. Vernon Willemse’s fight choreography is quite grounded but at times hyper-edited where it lacked of any real vision of technique. Interestingly enough, Eisley underwent training for the film under Ken Nagayama, whose credits include 1980’s martial arts films L.A. Street Fighters and Best of the Best.
Those who have seen the anime will most likely not like Kite so much, but those who never saw the original anime might enjoy this film. A mix of Luc Besson and South African film headed by a pretty good performance by lead actress India Eisley, this is one that is worth at least a rental.
WFG RATING: B-