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October 2010

Hidden Fortress: The Last Princess

cast: Jun Matsumoto, Kippei Shiina, Masami Nagasawa, Daisuke Miyagawa, and Hiroshi Abe

director: Shinji Higuchi

118 minutes (15) 2008
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
4Digital Media DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 2/10
review by Alexandra Bunning

Hidden Fortress: The Last Princess

When Princess Yuki (Masami Nagasawa)'s country, the wealthy land of Akizuki, is attacked and occupied by the poor but ambitious country of Yamana, she finds that - as the last member of the royal family - she must attempt to escape to the neighbouring country of Hayakawa with Akizuki's famed wealth. Whilst holed up in mountain caverns, she comes across bumbling duo Takezo (Jun Matsumoto) and Shinpachi (Daisuke Miyagawa), who, lured by the prospect of such a large stash of gold, promise Yuki's faithful bodyguard, the samurai Rokurota (Hiroshi Abe), that they will be able to guide them through enemy territory, and into Hayakawa.

And so begins a highly improbable and ultimately boring tale of the angst-ridden Princess' travels to Hayakawa, accompanied by the terribly unfunny slapstick hi-jinks of Takezo and Shinpachi, and the long-suffering Rokurota, who - thanks to Yuki's overpowering sense of nobility and apparent total lack of intellect forcing her to seek out her pursuers and tell them her identity on the off chance that they might stop killing her people - must pull her out of scrape after scrape. Following them is the ubiquitous baddie character, Gyobu (Kippei Shiina), complete with disfiguring scar.

I feel that Hidden Fortress: The Last Princess (aka: Kakushi toride no san akunin - The last princess) could have been so much better. It has all the hallmarks of an enjoyable swashbuckling adventure, but none of the pieces quite fit. The characterisations feel minimal, and even Takezo, the everyman character, seems a two-dimensional caricature of himself. Shinpachi's supposed comic relief grates, and Nagasawa's attempt at a spoiled princess is totally unsympathetic. Only Abe's Rokurota is at all believable.

The storyline was action-packed, but this action often fell flat, even when two of the characters somehow manage the superhuman feat of riding a horse out of an exploding mountain. The half-hearted attempt at creating a burgeoning romance between Yuki and Takezo is so much of an afterthought you can't help wondering why they bothered.

Despite all of this, I do think Hidden Fortress' 'once upon a time' fairytale style would probably do well with a children's audience. This is unfortunate however, because the violence has forced the certification up to a 15. I really wanted to like this film, but was left feeling that I had wasted two hours of my life. If you're looking for an entertaining adventure movie, I suggest watching Akira Kurosawa's original, but give this one a miss.



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