10 December 2011 | dee.reid
I have to say that I was a little disappointed by the final result of "Samurai Girl," a six-episode mini-series based on a series of young adult fiction novels that has recently aired on television channel ABC Family. But, being an avid martial arts movie fan, I didn't dislike what I saw. In fact, while essentially a family-friendly martial arts/samurai epic, it was very well executed in terms of sword-play and action sequences reminiscent of our favorite samurai blood-letters from Japan.
The series begins by introducing Japanese princess Heaven Kogo (the Korean Jamie Chung), a pampered 19-year-old who was the sole survivor of a horrific plane crash and her name comes from the fact that she apparently "descended" from the heavens. At the beginning of the series, she has been engaged in an arranged marriage in San Francisco to a man she doesn't love, and their marriage ceremony is crashed by ninjas. In the fray, her father is severely wounded and her brother - who had journeyed to America a year earlier - dies tragically trying to rescue her.
She manages to make it out in one piece, and lands at the pad of college roommates Cheryl (Saige Thompson) and the computer-savvy uber-nerd Otto (Kyle Labine). They take her in but it isn't long before the same ninjas show up again. Now on the run once more with her new friends, Heaven journeys to the dojo of hunky American Kendo master Jake Stanton (Brendan Fehr), who was her brother's best friend. A series of plot machinations evolve revolving around Heaven's mystical connection to the samurai traditions of her ancestors and training with Jake to take on the violent Yakuza (Japanese mafia) members that have infiltrated her family.
What I feel "Samurai Girl" needed best was a better script, being that was the area I felt was the most deficient and hampered me from giving it a better rating. It took a while for me to really get "into" this series and was on the verge of turning it off very early on. The acting is OK, but nothing really spectacular or stand-out. Jamie Chung is a very beautiful actress and displays some real skill with her sword fighting talents. I didn't get a very big impression that her moves were in any way, fake. There's a lot of Hong Kong-style action choreography as well, just to give the action scenes that added visual flair.
Lastly, I know that Japanese martial arts movies are noteworthy for their extreme violence, but I have to hand it to the filmmakers that they knew how to tone a lot of this stuff down to make it more kid-friendly, even though there are some colorful bits of strong language thrown in for good measure.
Overall, "Samurai Girl" was a not a bad series, though I am sure that it could have used some polishing.