Stars: Meiko Kaji, Juzo Itami, Yoshio Harada
Genre: Chambara, Political Drama
Sequel to 1973's Lady Snowblood, based on the manga Shurayukihime by Kazuo Koike. Both films (though mostly the first one) are noted for their large influence upon Tarantino's Kill Bill duology.
Continuing the story of Yuki from the last film, after Yuki avenged her family she is now wanted for murder by the police and is sentenced to be executed. Yuki, who was born for the single reason of revenge, feels her existence is now pointless and accepts her fate. However, during her arrest she is rescued by the Secret Police who wish to hire her to retrieve a document from an anti-government anarchist.
As you may come to realize this film is much more plot-heavy than the last one. Whereas the first was a simple tale of revenge, this sequel turns a bit more into a political drama. And I suppose that's the main complaint most people have with this film, and I can't blame them.
This film is slow paced, despite the nearly non-stop action you've come to love from the first (a bit similar to Kill Bill Vol. 1 compared to Vol. 2, to make further connections between the two). That is something you have to accept while watching it. There's not much action in it. If you go in knowing that you will enjoy the film; after all, we don't criticize Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove for being a war film with no action. No, we differentiate them into separate genres. Lady Snowblood 2 is different from the first, so different in fact that it nearly crosses into a completely different genre.
Despite the subtitle of Love Song of Vengeance there's actually not must revenge going on; it's not really much of a revenge story at all. And, as you may be surprised to find out, the story really isn't about Lady Snowblood, it just happens to involve her. Much of the time is spent with other character or other things happening that have very little to do with Yuki. Which is a shame, because when the camera's on Yuki it's awesome.
It's slow-paced and pretty talk-heavy, but there is some action. The beginning has some cool fighting and there's a big showdown at the end (which was a bit disappointing). The main problem I had with the end fight scene (only minor spoilers here) was that it wasn't thrilling or epic. It was just slash, slash, shoot, shoot. It lacked substance. Plus, it was very poorly choreographed. Lady Snowblood gets shot about half a dozen times without so much as flinching. The large fights suffer from the problem of having people idle, just waiting until their turn to die (a problem that many action films of the sort suffer from). The film definitely fails to maintain the thrilling and exciting and just plain awesome action of the first one, but that's not to say it's all bad.
Despite these negatives I've mentioned I still think Lady Snowblood 2 is not a bad film, indeed I'd call it a great one. First of all it's incredibly well made. Allow me to elaborate...
This film is beautiful. Every shot seems perfectly crafted and executed. The cinematography is masterful. Take for instance a scene early on in the film: Yuki is on a beach fighting off a group of policemen whom have her encircled; the camera captures everything from an overhead shot; we see the wave come up to everyone's feet and for a brief second everything is still as if suspended, then, as the wave pulls back into the ocean, the policemen move in on Yuki and capture her. Obviously words can't do the scene perfect justice but it is quite an amazing shot and there are many more like it throughout the film.
Another positive for the film is that the politics are actually very well written. I'm no Japanese political expert but even the little I knew was enough to make this all the more interesting. I've also seen people whom are very well versed in early 20th century Japanese politics who say that it was very well done and fascinating.
The acting is great, I particularly liked the guy who played the anarchist. Of course Meiko Kaji as Yuki does a great job and she is quickly becoming one of my favorite actresses.
Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance is a good film. You just have to know what to expect and view it less as a sequel to an action-filled gore fest and more as it's own movie...one which happens to have a bit less snow and blood. Do that and you should enjoy it immensely.
Purchase Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance on Amazon: Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Double Feature (UK only) [Steelbook] - DVD - VHS