Set in crime ridden city in the near future, the film follows the young assassin Sawa (India Einsley) and her handler and police detective Akers (Samuel L. Jackson). Orphaned by the criminal Emir empire, Sawa seeks to work her way through the many underlings to the top and to find those responsible for her parents’ deaths. When a mysterious young man who claims a connection to Sawa’s past appears (Callan MacAuliffe), Sawa may finally reach the top of the villainous Emir organization and take her revenge.
Adapted from the short OVA anime series from Yasuomi Umetsu, Kite is a film that somehow remains true to the source in tone, despite making the necessary changes for an intended audience that truthfully isn’t ready for this type of Japanese program. Gone are more overtly sexual elements of the character of Sawa, though the baby-faced Einsley did cause some discomfort with her attempts to depict a hyper-sexualized killer. A no win situation, she lacks the gratuitous sensualism to pull off the character but the material promises no forgiveness in any attempt for sexuality as a weapon.
The art direction is quite good, with its South African shooting locale doubled for the oddly integrated setting of the film. The few SA actors did cause some brow-furrowig with the distinct accents, but contextually it’s a simple enough film to follow. MacAullife and Jackson serve as minor support as Oburi and Detective Akers, respectively, but never truly get to show their stuff though Jackson does get a bit of his world famous “yelling but not shouting” bit in towards the end. It’s a stylishly shot film but more than a little passe considering this day and age.
A handful of scenes are oulled from the original and truthfully are recreated fairly well. The opening elevator sequence is very accurate and though the infamous bathroom scene is fairly well done, it lacks the punch that the anime uses to punctuate this scene’s ending. There is also a unnecessary addition of parkour-influenced free running that has definitely worn out its welcome in many films for its propensity to be shoehorned in numerous productions.
In the end, the film was surprisingly better than I expected. With its hyper-violent scenes it carries more than a passing connection to the source which fans will appreciate, but considering that the original anime is hardly stellar storytelling in the first place, most cinemagoers will lament the film’s ‘by the numbers’ approach to action and visual style. Not a terrible film, it offers a handful of interesting action scenes but it never goes beyond simple pulpy entertainment.