Directed by Ralph Ziman.
Starring Samuel L. Jackson, India Eisley, Callan McAuliffe, Carl Beukes, and Deon Lotz.
When her cop father is killed, a young woman tracks the murder with the apparent help of his ex-partner.
Kite, the live action remake of the 1998 Japanese Anime, sees Samuel L. Jackson continuing his recent run of straight to DVD appearances. As it happens a live action US version of the popular Anime didn’t quite have enough interest for the big screen. Never-the-less, Brian Cox’s (not that Brian Cox) screenplay is a largely faithful retelling of the original story.
Kite tells the story of Sawa an orphaned girl haunted by the murder of her parents before her eyes. She spends her teens and early adult years dependant on drugs which help keep her memories repressed. She was also trained and raised to become an assassin by Karl Aker (Jackson) her fathers former police partner. Driven by revenge, not just to the person responsible for killing her parents, but to all criminals, Sawa becomes a deadly assassin, who due to being a young girl can easily slip under the radar and exact unexpected retribution on wrong doers.
Visually the film attempts to offer a stylistic nod to Japanese Anime, as well as The Matrix (which itself owed some of it’s visual splendour to Anime). That said the cinematography is often a bit dark and murky and looks typical of your standard stylised straight to DVD flick. David R. Ellis (The Final Destination) had originally been on board to direct but died shortly after filming began, with Ralph Ziman taking over. Whether that had some baring on the film not having a particularly strong visual style I’m not sure. You’d also imagine that the inclusion of Sam Jackson was down to Ellis given the two had previously worked together on cult hit, Snakes on a Plane.
The cast are pretty bland. In the lead role, India Eisley is a little flat. Her role requires repressed stoicism but there needs to be something going on beneath that and she really only manages the surface layer. Natalie Portman as an example (and at a younger age) really managed a multi-layered and nuanced performance in Leon, which is missing in this similarly themed tale. Jackson really needs to be doing better than this. The man’s a movie legend and an icon. He deserves better than run of the mill DVD premières, but at the same time, he perhaps needs a few strong words from his Pulp Fiction character Jules, “Say pay-check one more time mother-f****r, I dare you!” Surely Jackson has enough cash in the bank to be more choosy about roles, but on this occasion I’ll give him the benefit of doubt that he’d signed on to a film with a director he’d previously had great success with. He phones it in here but regardless of that he’s a cut above the rest of the cast.
As far as the action scenes go, they’re efficiently made and nicely choreographed, if a little manically shot and edited (as is the modern way). They never manage the beautiful chaos and startling imagery that Anime (at it’s best) can provide, and which The Matrix delivered. As perhaps a more fair comparison, the cult film Crying Freeman, like Kite, based upon an Anime source material and shot on a low budget, was far more effective at capturing its source, with some beautiful action and crisp visuals.
Kite is a largely forgettable entry into the genre. The young female assassin routine is becoming somewhat old hat and has been done far more effectively in recent years. A bored Samuel L. Jackson can’t enliven this often dreary affair and even given this is a film made for DVD, the action sequences should be better.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★