PLOT: A young assassin searches for the murderer of her parents in a dystopian city.
REVIEW: Ah, to be young and full of life and out seeking bloody vengeance while under the influence of mind-numbing drugs in a post-apocalyptic hellscape of your former world! KITE heroine Sawa is indeed living the life, tracking down child-traffickers and skewering, slicing, exploding them with desperate determination. Sure, she’ll often have to dress like an underaged prostitute to do so, but that’s the price you pay for youthful exuberance.
Or not. Ralph Ziman’s KITE, which is based on an anime from the late 90s, is a grueling chore; a formulaic wannabe that lazily draws inspiration from the playbooks of Luc Besson, Tony Scott, Quentin Tarantino and more. Without a personality to call its own, it stoops to making its young asskicking star look barely older than a tween in the hopes the sight of her seducing older men and then butchering them will help you get your rocks off. If that doesn’t work, the movie kicks her around just as much; if you’re an appreciator of that sort of thing, then maybe you’re a part of the one group KITE will please.
The story assembles various familiar tropes, jams them in a familiar setting, goes about familiar business and then ends with a whimper, ensuring you’ll never think about it again. Sawa (India Eisley) is a drug-addicted teenager on a warpath; to avenge the death of her parents, she scours the underworld of a bombed-out city looking for their killers. Slaughtering as many pervy old men as she can (they’re all child-traffickers), the closer she gets to solving the mystery, the more she remembers the details of her cloudy youth and the day her folks were killed.
There to lend a hand is her father’s ex-partner Karl, who is played by Samuel L. Jackson in a performance that redefines “phoned-in.” The presence of Jackson in an uninteresting supporting role curiously underlines the cheap and rudimentary nature of the movie; he’s all too often in direct-to-video junk lately. Why he chose to do this particular junk, I can’t say, but it wasn’t for the love of the craft. The movie doesn’t even let him go off on a classic Sam Jackson yelling rant, he’s just here to be a name on the DVD box.
Most of the action is executed on a pedestrian level; there’s some half-assed parkour in there, a handful of fistfights, one or two shootouts. Mostly, however, it’s Sawa going to town on dudes with whatever sharp implements are available to her, so there is plenty of the red stuff spraying across the screen. One or two heads actually blow up - she has a weapon that can do that - but like everything else in the movie, it’s a sight we’ve seen it done before, better, countless times.
When it’s not boring you, KITE is making you feel a little icky. Eisley was a youthful 19-years-old when she shot the movie, but Ziman goes to lengths to make her look about 4-5 years younger, which means KITE is an often creepy experience where a girl who genuinely looks about 15 is drooled over and brutalized by a nonstop parade of crusty antagonists. I realize that may be some people’s cup of tea - no judgies - but for me the movie’s nasty, fetishistic treatment of its young, slutted-up starlet is undeniably off-putting.
Not that it isn’t off-putting otherwise. KITE is an unattractive movie, to say the least; with dirt blacks and muddy browns clashing with dim neon, the movie appears to be copying the grungy-industrial look of DREDD but fails to imports any of that movie’s rugged charm. Bumping uncomfortably against the dreary atmosphere is a pulsating EDM soundtrack that is uselessly employed to liven up the proceedings, but you can’t fake genuine energy, which KITE is totally devoid of. It's also devoid of personality, fun, suspense, and anything resembling a brain.