Kite adapts an anime feature from 1998 to the live action realm and it doesn’t translate all that well, feeling cheap and unnecessary.
It’s the story of Sawa (India Eisley) a young woman trying to survive in a corrupt world where crime and gangs terrorize the street and everything is for sale, including young women like herself. Years earlier when her mother and policeman father are found victims of a grisly double homicide, she begins a ruthless quest for the man who murdered them. With the help of her father’s ex-partner, Karl Aker (Samuel L. Jackson), and a mysterious friend from her past (Callan McAuliffe) she becomes a merciless assassin, blasting her way through this dark world only to uncover a devastating truth about everything that she has been working towards.
It works better animated because there’s just so much that this film can’t adequately pull off. Based on the cult classic anime by Yasuomi Umetsu, Kite feels super low budget and trying for a look that you just can’t recreate while working with budget constraints and uncertain stylistic choices. It’s the kind of thing that shouldn’t be made without the biggest chequebook possible, despite the best of intentions.
For his first movie in 6 years, director Ralph Ziman tries to make a hazy steampunk-esque world reminiscent of Frank Miller, but instead it feels like a cheap knock off where the director put Vaseline on the lens to make it feel gritty and mysterious. It brings nothing new to the table, playing like a C Grade knock off of movies like Sin City when it comes to its noir roots, and it makes Johnny Mnemonic look like a better tech thriller, and that’s certainly not a good sign.
Disjointed and random, this movie undoubtedly suffered from its original director being found dying only weeks before shooting. It never feels together or coherent, The script is vague, weak, and lacking in feeling or energy, with each poorly staged action scene blending into the next and barely anything to link them all together. As for the characters and their plight, it’s almost impossible to get emotionally invested in. It’s missing a heart: black, beating, or otherwise.
Jackson is ultimately more of a supporting player on this one, and for his sake I can only hope this film paid for a nice vacation home or heated his pool during the winter months because other then being hired to stand around and be Sam Jackson, he doesn’t have a lot to do, and there’s a lack of interest that shows. With only a hand full of credits to her name, Eisley can’t carry a movie, especially one like this where she has to be a strung out junkie on a rampage. McAuliffe might have it best since he barely registers. I forgot about his character until I had to look it up in the credits and go, ‘Right he was THAT guy’.
There’s nothing engaging about Kite. It doesn’t even qualify as an interesting failure. It’s a trite and obvious attempt to remake better material with little clue what made people like the original. Nothing works, and it can now be used as a cautionary tale for anyone wanting to update an ambitious animated film into a live action affair.