|Original Name||スカイハイ スタンダードエディション|
|Starring||Yumiko Shaku, Takako Ohsawa, Shosuke Tanihara, Aya Okamoto, Naho Toda|
|Screen Format||16:9 Wide Screen|
|Audio||Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1, Japanese DTS Surround|
|Running Time||122 Minutes|
A bizarre genre blend by VERSUS director Ryuhei Kitamura, but in the end you'll be more than pleased with your viewing experience.
Stylistic and sexy but at the same time, there is a very sad story at its core.
Detective Kanzaki (Shosuke Tanihara) is investigating a series of grizzly murders where the victims, all young women, have had their hearts ripped out.
Finally the day of his wedding has arrived and as his bride-to-be Mina (Yumiko Shaku, PRINCESS BLADE) walks down the aisle with her heart ripped out, Kanzaki's world crumbles.
Mina has also fallen victim to the mysterious serial killer.
Now her soul has traveled to the Gates of Rage, the place where anyone who is murdered must choose 1 of 3 paths:
1) Accept their death and go to heaven to be reborn.
2) Haunt the living as a ghost, or
3) Curse their killer and go to hell for it afterwards.
All souls that end up at the Gates of Rage are greeted by the Gate Keeper, Izuko (Eihi Shiina, AUDITION).
Those who take a life, even their own, will end up in Hell and Kanzaki has sworn to kill the one who has taken Mina's life.
Why does the killer rip out the hearts? What do they need them for?
Will Kanzaki take his revenge and go to Hell? Which path will Mina choose?
SKY HIGH is actually a prequel to a TV series by the same name (also starring Yumiko Shaku), and that seems to be something that many VERSUS fans seem to overlook and (for some reason) be confused by.
In fact let me just say this, THIS IS NOTHING LIKE VERSUS OR AZUMI!! Expectations set by thinking that this movie is anything like his previous works will be shattered quickly.
On the flip side however, this is an awesome movie which is more story driven than anything else.
The story, on paper, doesn’t seem particularly original and that’s more or less correct. However, it’s Asian influence and nicely flowing story gives this “apocalyptic” storyline a unique edge that stands above all other movies of the same kind using its story telling techniques.
Before doing this review I had done a lot of browsing to see what others thought of it and the general consensus is that fans of Kitamura’s previous works were disappointed, while new-comers enjoyed it a lot despite being thrown straight into Kitamura’s bizarre directing style (I guess the best description of Kitamura is that he’s like a Japanese Quentin Tarrantino, he has his own unique style that has attracted hordes of fans).
Ok now throw away everything I just said about disappointment and crushed expectations because I want to make sure I get this very clear. I want to set everything straight and let everybody know what to expect.
SKY HIGH is a bizarre genre blend. The category says “Horror” but that’s not true, there’s nothing scary about this. In a sense it’s a blend of Supernatural cop drama, drama, action (not much but still action) and (in a sense) Romance.
At the start is where it’s Cop Drama comes into play, from there it blends in supernatural drama then fades into more Cop Drama coupled with some more supernatural elements, and finally some action and some Romance at the end.
The first thing that comes to mind when somebody mentions Ryuhei Kitamura is his kinetic action style, and when somebody approaches one of his movies they expect it to be fast paced and action packed and SKY HIGH is quite the opposite.
Despite the lack of action in SKY HIGH it still delivers a well paced story delivered with very satisfying emotion.
The action that is there in SKY HIGH is mostly the usual clanking of swords and spinning around stylishly and sexy.
One particular fight scene between the wise ex-gate keeper and Rei the hot leather clad secretary, is particularly excellent.
On another note the cast is top notch.
Yumiko Shaku as Mina, while not kicking as much ass as she did in PRINCESS BLADE, delivers a very good performance which at some times does waver a bit and seems amateurish (surprisingly since she stars in the TV series).
Shosuke Tanihara plays Detective Kanzaki well and while his performance isn’t Oscar worthy, he doesn’t become melodramatic through his screams of pain and rage.
Takao Osawa as the nemesis does do well, a little too well, and his face becomes frighteningly pug-like when he tries to act out his superhuman side.
Kanae Uotani as the nemesis’ secretary delivers one of the better “stone cold” performances I’ve seen lately, and overshadows a lot of the other characters when she comes on screen.
One of my favorite Japanese actresses is Eihi Shiina and she makes a memorable appearance as Izuko, unfortunately she isn’t around for long and her battle is disappointingly short.
The stand out performance comes from one of the minor characters, Yumi Kikuchi, who plays the wise re-incarnated Gate Keeper who helps the others towards the end.
Yumi delivers an excellent performance and proves that women don’t have to wear tight leather to be hot. Yumi’s sword fighting is also the most graceful in the whole movie and she seems to be the only actor with experience in wielding swords.
The cinematography and video quality is excellent and very clean.
The audio is clear and crisp and the soundtrack is especially great.
The sound track has a lot of great fast paced techno-instrumental music during the action/fight scenes and also has some very nice emotive melodies that accompany the more dramatic elements of the film.
Well there we go, hopefully I have written and good enough review so your expectations won’t be shattered if you expect more of the same from Mr. Kitamura.
In the end despite me really hoping for some more action, I’m left telling myself “y’know… I love that movie” (of course the appearance of Eihi Shiina sealed the deal). Oh, and keep an eye out for the sequel which should be released within the next few months.
|Average rating:||(5 out of 5)|
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