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By Eric Campos | April 2, 2004

Ryuhei Kitamura returns to his blood-soaked woodland stomping grounds of “Versus” with this martial arts hack and slash action film that’s that’s said to be something of a live action version of the anime classic “Ninja Scroll.” Don’t believe the hype. “Azumi” has very little in relation to “Ninja Scroll.” It’s a fairly dull movie, too.

Azumi, along with a clan of young warriors, is raised by master Ji to be a deadly assassin, trained to take out the evil warlords threatening to tear their land apart. Ordered to kill their own friends to weed out the weak members in the clan, Ji deems the survivors ready to strike out on their murderous journey in order to maintain the peace.

A little boring and extremely long for what it is, all that “Azumi” really has going for it are several eye-popping battle sequences, including the climax which is a totally delicious celebration of graphic violence, and some nice camera work. Past that, I really couldn’t get too involved in what was going on. “Versus” dragged a little, too. “Azumi” drags worse. Dull characters and dry storytelling are to blame here. And then there’s that horrifying generic anime soundtrack, complete with squealing guitar, that’ll hammer at your nerves for both of these two hours. Sounds like someone dropped Steve Vai in a blender.

I was hoping for a lot more from “Azumi,” other than cool fights, especially with it being so long. But all I got was a rather limp and forgettable affair. It’s a damn shame.

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