AsianMovieWeb logo
Original Title:
Sky High

Japan 2003

Fantasy, Thriller

Ryuhei Kitamura

Yumiko Shaku
Shoshuke Tanihara
Takao Osawa
Kanae Uotani
Eihi Shiina
Yumi Kikuchi
Hiromasa Taguchi
Naho Toda
Aya Okamoto
Yuka Itaya
Masato Sakai

Search AsianMovieWeb

Sky High

Story: Officer Kanzaki (Shoshuke Tanihara) is after a serial killer, who removes the heart of his victims. When Kanzaki's longtime girlfriend Mina (Yumiko Shaku) is killed at their wedding ceremony by the same guy, Kanzaki has a breakdown. Now, he goes after the murderer of his wife on his own, showing no mercy.
At the meantime Mina's soul arrives at the "Gate of Rage". The guardian Izuko (Eihi Shiina) tells her that she has three choices. First, she enters paradise and gets reborn after some time or second she returns to earth and haunts humans. The last possibility for her is to curse her own murderer, yet this also means that one gets thrown into hell till the end of time.
Mina uses the time she is given to make up her mind to prevent her friend from killing her murderer. That is because those who kill another human being are thrown into hell for evermore.
Kanzaki is right on the trail of the serial killer. Actually, it is the billionaire Kudo (Takao Osawa) and his secretary (Kanae Uotani). Kudo wants to resurrect his dead wife with the help of an old demoniac ritual. But for this he needs the hearts of the former guardians of the "Gate of Rage", which once was Mina's duty, too. A deadly chase commences and nothing less than the end of the world is about to be the future outcome...

Review: Ryuhei Kitamura did it again. He once again proves that as a director he is second right after Park Chan-wook in regards to a movie's picture and style. "Sky High" is an unusually and interesting genre-mix of fantasy, a serious thriller and some Kitamura-typical cool swordsplay. So who cares that he is still doing the same mistakes as in "Versus". Most of the scenes just look too overstyled and the essentiell core is missing. This isn't just apparent concerning the fights, but also leaves its mark on the characters. At least, the story delivers some nice surprises, although it becomes quite predictable at the end.

"Sky High" is based on a manga and is the prequel to the Japanese TV-series of the same name. You shouldn't be all too confused when some persons who just were deprived of their heart, are still wandering around for some minutes. Despite its looks of a common cop-chases-after-serial-killer movie, the film soon proves to be more of a fantasy flick, that can score with a great picture and some well done and executed ideas.
Unfortunately, the movie has to struggle with some flaws. First of all, the focus is always centered somewhere else. Even though Mina as the future gatekeeper is supposed to be in the center of events, the focus often shifts to Kanzaki and his hunt for the serial killer or to Kudo. Only at the end Mina gets to do a little bit more, which is a little bit too late.

Let's get to the movie's picture, which is breathtaking and improves the film of a lot. Beautiful and stylish settings, a great lighting of the scenes, extraordinary and impressive camera angles and good editing please the eye. Above all else Kitamura's typical use of glowing effects is once again very dominant and looks just great.
Mostly, the movie features some very nice special effects, even though unluckily the "demon" at the end is not that convincing.
The director also shows that he has a good sense for the fitting music and underlays his work with some soft Techno-Trip-Hop.

At first glance there is no need to complain about the fights. Awesome beautiful women draw their katanas and fight each other in a very stylish way. Yet, here the versed eye soon will be missing something. The essence!
It seems as if the movie couldn't afford a decent choreographer. So Kitamura tried to make up for it by imbueing the fighting sequences with a lot of his (surely impressive) sense for style. However, because of this 80 % of the fights (this is no overstatement) is just unnecessary posing. If it weren't for the hyper-kinetic camera work and the good editing, the fights would have no pacing at all. But still, in the end there is disappointment. You always have the feeling that something is going to happen and the fight finally would start to kick in with a bang, but nothing! It's also not helpful that you definitely can see that the protagonists don't really know how to use a sword, whereas Kanae Uotani is an exception. At least she is presented in the proper light by the director as she proves to have the best skills of the girls. Her cool and deadly-seducing charimsa only adds to her great appearance, of course.

Concerning the acting the movie is a mixed bag. Yumiko Shaku ("The Princess Blade") isn't really convincing. Her changing into the guardian of the gate is somewhat sudden and she just has too little to do on screen to build up a real character. The rest of the cast is also just doing a solid job and nothing more. Takao Osawa ("Aragami") is giving a fine villian, Shosuke Tanihara on the other hand gives a little bit too shallow performance as the cop.
Here another sore point of the movie takes effect. There are too many characters thrown into the movie. So none of them are really elaborated and the movie looses its focus quite too often. This also is the reason why the movie feels too long with its running time of 122 minutes.

Despite all criticism, the flaws of the movie's script, resp. a lot of implausible coincidences, one can not deny that "Sky High" can be quite entertaining. As a thriller the film works pretty good and even when it drifts off into the fantasy genre completely, the viewer has no problem to stay in this world until the ending credits. Kitamura's great pictures and a beautiful style will make you forget the many flaws.
However, next time a little bit more essence, Mister Kitamura!

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
Buy this movie:

Yesasia Logo