Japanese action films, especially the ones that have a low budget, have usually carried the usual theme of vengeance ever since the inception of "pink violence" in their films. They usually have a very simple plot and the action it delivers may go from mild to ultra violent-- that uses some blood splattering effects, sex and nudity with the usual theme of betrayal and vengeance. "LEGEND OF THE RED DRAGON: Woman of Vengeance" (aka. Sekiryu No Onna, 2006) is a mild entry into the pink violence genre as directed by Toru Ichikawa.
In a small town in Osaka, a mass serial murder targeting the Japanese mafia- Kurosawa Kai are occurring in waves. According to the police files, the victims were murdered with the use of a very sharp sword by someone with an uncanny ability to wield such a weapon. Aramaki (Kenichi Endo), one of the officers of the mafia clan resolves to find the killer; but the body count continues to rise as does his anxiety. A clue surfaces that is related to "sekiryu" (Red Dragon)--it awakens an ominous memory: The truth behind the brutal murder of the Asahina family and the shadow of vengeance--a lone survivor. A woman raised by a legendary swordsman named Yui (beauteous Yu Misaki) steps forward to exact her revenge...
Sounds pretty cardboard doesn't it? Well, it is. I was told by a friend that what matters is the film's journey. The film isn't going to win any awards for originality. "Legend of the Red Dragon" refers to the dragon tattoo at the back of an Asahina clan's master. The film does have the usual themes of betrayal, revenge, love and attempts for redemption. The film doesn't offer anything new, except that it does somehow manage to make me say "What the Heck?" once again. The film takes a dark and serious tone but the appearance of the "Otomatsu trio" just made me laugh my socks off. I was a little confused, as to this change of tone that gave the film a manga-inspired feel. Whether this was intentional or not, I rather took it as a way to lighten the film's mood a bit--even though it felt severely out of place.
Aside from the outrageous oddball trio, the film pretty much sticks to textbook Japanese action characters. Yui is an orphaned girl raised by a former hitman for the mafia played by legendary stunt coordinator Kenji Ohba (whose works are mostly followed by Tarantino himself). Yu Misaki who plays the female lead is a Japanese model who has represented Japan in different modeling competitions. I suppose her performance was decent enough as our beautiful, brooding heroine. There is nothing sexier than a beautiful Japanese woman in a red gown who wields a red katana sword. Kenichi Endo is the main antagonist and his role isn't any different from the other ones he has played. Some characters proved minor fillers to emphasize Yui's divided resolve. The film also relies on flashbacks (mostly shot in Black and white) to give our main characters some development.
The action sequences go from good to decent to mediocre to good. You can almost tell that the shooting of the action scenes required most of the film's budget and its quality shifts from time to time. I can definitely tell that some scenes required Yui as being doubled by a male stuntman but thankfully they abandoned this idea near its climax. Yu Misaki does her share of fight sequences but the camerawork didn't hang back to show all her moves. Despite its weaknesses, I thought Misaki looked capable in the action scenes and definitely exuded a restrained sexiness in the action poses. There are some blood splattering effects used and some gore had been utilized. I kind of liked the film's soundtrack, and of course there is some sex and nudity in its proceedings but they are quite mild compared to "pink" film standards.
Overall, "Sekiryu No Onna" is entertaining on some spots but definitely forgettable. It doesn't offer anything new to the genre but the Otomatsu trio is still making me crack up. The action scenes are quite mediocre compared to the awesome swordplay in Ryuhei Kitamura's fantastic "Azumi". I was real disappointed that the encounter between Yui and the Aramaki's Chinese female bodyguard didn't reach fruition but I guess it was hampered by the film's budget. The film's climax seemed a bit too perfunctory for my tastes and some elements were heavy-handed. The film wasn't bad but it was just too MEDIOCRE.
However, if you measure this film in regards to "guilty pleasure" with a 6-pack of brewsky---then yes, it would be quite good.
Perhaps worth a watch for fans of Japanese cinema, but a “Skipper” for everybody else [2 Out of 5 Stars] Review was originally posted in amazon.com
The dvd's quality is simple; the video is Letterboxed with 2.0 Dolby Digital Japanese track. The English Subtitles are good.