Well, file this one under movies I genuinely wanted to love but... didn't. Adapted for American audiences from a Japanese anime of the same name and turned into a shell of itself, Kite was a story that was never going to work outside of its source material for a number of reasons. But still, I forged on with this attempt to bring Kite to the west, and while it is certainly not the worst film I've ever seen, it not really much of anything at all. But all the same, let us chat about Kite: both the Japanese anime and this American adaptation respectively.
Note: The main character's name in Kite is Sawa, and while I appreciated her bad-assery, as a child of the 90s, I spent the film's running time imagining him:
Released in 1998, the original Japanese anime Kite has been a lightening rod for both controversy and epic fan devotion in the years following its debut. Despite being considered by many to be a cult classic, Kite is actually banned in some countries, and only available in others in heavily censored forms. Why, you may ask? Kite tells the story of teenage assassin Sawa, out to avenge her parent's murder, and features highly gory depictions of violence, graphic rape scenes involving Sawa as a young girl (which Norway classified as "child pornography"), and strong sexuality and nudity. It is only a recent event that American audiences have been able to get their hands on a fully-uncensored copy of Kite, and this is what lead to a live-action adaptation. Except, yeah, almost nothing I described above made the cut in director Ralph Ziman's version of Sawa's story.
Starring India Eisley as Sawa, who apparently starred in The Secret Life of the American Teenager, but let's be honest... who knows anyone from that show but Shailene Woodley, this new version of Kite is so sanitized and lacking in heart that you barely recognize the source material. With the exception of a few scenes of stylized gore, and one scene of Sawa seducing a dude in her bra and undies, everything about this movie felt like it was watered down to appeal to the YA set... which is ironic given that they will probably never bother to see it anyway.
The worst part of watching this version of Kite was that you could almost see glimmers of a good film, both in the performances and in some of the visuals. Samuel L. Jackson also stars as Sawa's protector and accomplice, Karl, and even when he is giving a half-assed performance (as he is here), he is still always a blast to watch. But SLJ himself can't elevate what is a meandering script and direction lacking in any sort of investment above "mildly watchable" territory. And that is all that THIS version of Kite is: mildly watchable.
If you are intent on watching Kite, it is running exclusively on DirectTV right now for $9.99, but frankly, I can think of about 50 other things you could use that money on. So wait for this one to come to RedBox, which it eventually will, and spend your hard-earned dollars on a film that is worth the long-term investment.
Rating: 1 1/2 Devon Sawa Crushes out of 5