Have we gotten over being depressed by the dilutive impact CGIs have had on the martial arts universe, a movie realm that had been uniquely ruled by physical capability, gravity, athletic grace, and sleight of hand? There's hardly a point to this internationally beloved genre if the action displayed only happened on someone's hard drive. But the Crouching Tiger demon is loose -- and popular; even genre pope Tsui Hark, with his unwatchably gumdroppy Zu Warriors (2001), has gone the way of all pixels. Ryuhei Kitamura's Azumi, released in 2003, is a prime sample, a kind of Buffy the Warlord Slayer in which a petite, mini-skirted assassin (Japanese pop starlet Aya Ueto) and her friends prevent war by taking down the warmongers. Take them down they do -- based on a manga, Azumi is exhaustively gory. Blood flies like water-park spray, limbs hack off like chicken wings, and the characters weep sugar tears. If it weren't for the carnage, it could've been an ad for Claritin.
Director: Ryuhei Kitamura
Writer: Isao Kiriyama, Yu Koyama and Rikiya Mizushima
Producer: Mataichiro Yamamoto
Cast: Aya Ueto, Shun Oguri, Hiroki Narimiya, Kenji Kohashi, Takatoshi Kaneko, Yuma Ishigaki, Yasuomi Sano, Shinji Suzuki, Eita Nagayama and Shogo Yamaguchi