I didn’t expect a movie named Samurai Chicks to be much good, and I was right. That said, it does have the benefit of being cheap and oddball, which is better than being expensive and boring, I suppose. It does not have any samurai in it, strictly speaking, although there are chicks—albeit ones who act more like ninja than samurai. I don’t know if that classifies as false advertising, but just so you know.
What’s genuinely interesting about the movie—or rather, what is more interesting than what happens in the movie—is how it was put together as a political allegory and a statement of identity for its director, Mari Asato. On coming to Tokyo from her native Okinawa, she saw Namie Amuro dancing on the big screen in Shibuya, and shook her head at all the Amuro clones in the vicinity—as if Amuro was sending her a message only she could decipher.
The “Samurai Chicks” of the title are closer to ninja,fighting for the independence of what we assume is Okinawa.
That moment, and many others like it, were eventually fashioned into a story. Four girls are recruited into a dance academy in “The Kingdom” (most likely Okinawa), where they’re trained to be emotionless killers, the better to fight for the Kingdom’s liberation from the mainland. Their instructions come from a pop idol who uses dance steps to spell out coded messages. One of the four, Miki, is the de facto narrator and protagonist: her mother died when a screw from a fighter plane hit her in the head, and so she has plenty of resentment just looking for a proper channel. When they’re assigned to assassinate Japans’ xenophobic director of national security, he retaliates by kidnapping and brainwashing the idol and her compatriots, and Miki has to fight to free everyone.
The movie is, as I’ve said, not very good. On the Japanese Indie Production Scale, with Lost By Dead at zero and Tetsuo: The Iron Man at ten, it ranks somewhere at around three or four. As entertainment, it’s a passable time-waster. But Asato drew on something interesting within herself to make this, and there are moments—as in an odd, hallucinatory sequence in the latter half of the film—when you can see someone with actual ideas at work and not just a visual bricklayer. I am curious to see what she’ll do with a bigger budget and a less goofy story.amazon-alt=4170tXrl9lL