Samurai Girl -- An early look
It's good to be ABC Family right about now. The Secret Life Of The American Teenager has been knocking the ratings ball out of the park all summer. GREEK just returned to great numbers of its own. And, while it hasn't had those same numbers, The Middleman is outstanding. Looking to continue riding that wave of success, the network is ready to debut their next big project next weekend. Samurai Girl is based on a series of young-adult novels. The six hour mini-series will play out with two hours a night on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, starting September 5.
Actually, an early peek, or an early glimpse might be a more apt title. Unfortunately, somewhere between the ABC Family DVD factory and our FedEx guy dropping off the disk, someone apparently dropped my copy on a running chainsaw. That's the only thing that can explain the giant scratch that was on it. Initially, three different computers and my set-top player all refused to play anything at all. All was not lost though. I love a good kung fu movie, and was curious to see the ABC Family take on the form. So much so, that I actually spent more time extracting the individual chapters from the disk than I spent watching it. In the end, I recovered four of the five chapters. So I've had a good look at the first installment.
My first impression is that this feels like what you would expect from ABC Family. That's not a negative, it's just what it is. The movie shares more with Disney's Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior than it does with something like Machine Girl. Those concessions meant that the violence has been toned down, and there are about 400 gallons less fake blood than in my usual imported kung fu romp. It doesn't really detract from the story though. They still manage some good chase scenes and some fairly inventive fight sequences.
Minor spoilers start here. I'm not going to give away much, because I think it's a fun story worth tuning in for, and I also have yet to see four hours of it. But the basics of it go like this... As we enter the story, Heaven (Jamie Chung, Dragonball) is on her way to San Francisco for the arranged marriage her father has set up for business reasons. Before she goes, we learn that her brother, Hiko, left home after a disagreement with their father. We jump right to the wedding, which is attacked by ninjas.
And I think that is where people can make some decisions on this one. How do you feel about this line of dialog? "I ran away because ninjas attacked the wedding." If your eyes just rolled, maybe this isn't for you. Because that is very much the world this story takes place in. If ninjas breaking up a wedding seems like a fine idea though, ABC Family might have something for you.
Amongst the chaos as the ninjas attack, Heaven is pulled away by Hiko, making a surprise appearance. As they flee to safety, Hiko is killed, by a ninja. That is the launching pad for Heaven's big adventure. She can't return to the hotel where the family is staying, so she makes her way to the home of her brother's American friend, Jake (Brendan Fehr, Roswell). Along the way she befriends Cheryl (Saige Thompson) and Otto (Kyle Labine). The three of them help her on her quest to find out who killed her brother, and took her family away from her. Through it all, the mysterious Severin (Steven Brand) lurks in the background. It's clear he knows something about Heaven, and her family, but not how he's involved.
The answer to what Severin is up to comes at the close of the first installment, and it's a good one. Of all the possible tracks for the story to take that were running through my head, the one they chose came as a surprise. It sets the story up very well to head into part two. I'm assuming that is where we'll see Stacy Keibler enter the story as Karen. She doesn't appear in part one, but the press materials list her as Heaven's romantic rival.
The long and short of it is that you probably already know if Samurai Girl is for you. If you like the ABC Family style of programming, this one is well made and worth a look. If their thing isn't for you, maybe take part of the weekend and rent Machine Girl instead. They bought the fake blood by the 55 gallon drum, seriously. I'm going to tune in. Even with a scratched disk, it's a fun show.