In 1998, a controversial and often-censored anime called Kite was released. I don’t think it’s ever seen a fully uncensored release in America, and it’s really only known by those who seek out the most controversial of media. It has a cult following — Quentin Tarantino was inspired by it for parts of Kill Bill, for example — but most people won’t have heard of it and won’t be inclined to seek it out after seeing this live-action adaptation.
From doing some basic reading about the anime — because, no, I’m not going to watch it — the adaptation changes a few things, keeps some basic visual moments intact, and … is nowhere even close to as controversial, mostly by omitting most of the scenes that you would only see in the uncensored version. That’s probably for the best. Some things don’t need to filmed, and judging from what I’ve read about the anime, it contains some of those things. I don’t mean to sound prudish, but … yeah, go read about the anime and if you’re someone who says “We need to see this in the film,” then please don’t tell me. Although I suppose that might give us a reason to care about Kite, which is something we don’t have much of right now.
The film takes place in the near future, after a financial collapse, during which there is less law enforcement, more poverty, and child prostitution rings run rampant. Our lead is Sawa (India Eisley), whose father was a police officer and was killed. Teaming up with her father’s partner (Samuel L. Jackson), she disguises herself in a brightly colored wig as an innocent child and then kills bad guys. Oh, and she’s addicted to a drug which blocks out her memory, and is given to her … by her father’s partner, because “I look after you,” he says. Right.
She’s an assassin. She kills bad guys. She wants to avenge her parents’ deaths. She’s basically Hit-Girl. Back in 1998, when the anime was released, young teenage female assassins weren’t all the rage. They weren’t prominent in mainstream media at all. In 2014, we’ve seen Kick-Ass, Hanna, Violet and Daisy, and so on. It’s no longer a big deal. And when it’s not done particularly well, which it isn’t here, you don’t have much of a reason to watch.
I’ll say this: Nobody involved in this project seemed to care a whole lot. This might come down to something that happened prior to its filming. David R. Ellis was supposed to direct the film, but something like a month before filming, he passed away. Local director Ralph Ziman then took over. Could that have killed the passion that everyone had? Or was the script the problem? Or maybe there really was no way to properly adapt Kite to the big screen.
The dialogue is awful. The action scenes are not particularly good; they’re not well-shot, well-edited, or terribly exciting. The thrill of seeing a young girl take out gangsters just isn’t as much of a thing anymore. You’ve seen it before and you’ve seen it better. The drab background exemplifies the semi-post-apocalyptic future, except there’s really not a whole lot different except how everything’s washed-out and the whole “abducting children” thing. And that happens in some parts of the world now.
India Eisley doesn’t show a lot of charisma here. But, then again, I don’t know if she was supposed to. She’s dramatically fine and can handle herself in the action scenes. Samuel L. Jackson is bored and underused, possibly due to losing his choice of director (and maybe good friend?) David R. Ellis. Callan McAuliffe plays our lead’s only friend, maybe, but leaves little impression.
Kite is violent and controversial — and the uncensored cut has never been released in America. It’s been adapted into a relatively safe and not particularly interesting movie about a teenage girl trying to seek revenge on the awful person/people who killed her parents several years earlier. It doesn’t have good action, it doesn’t have good dialogue, it’s not shot particularly well, and nobody in the movie — beyond maybe our lead, India Eisley — seems to care a whole lot about anything within it. Kite isn’t worth your time.