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  1. Published on: 16/11/2017 10:01 AMReported by: Film Critic
    Plot: A young girl hires a highly skilled samurai warrior with a strange secret to help her avenge her fathers death

    This is being billed as the 100th film by legendary Japanese director Takashi Miike. I technically see it as his 91st, as the marketing department seem to have included his TV work, and anything where he has only directed a segment in a film.

    Either way, this has been getting quite some buzz just from the action-packed trailer alone.

    I have only seen two of Miike's back catalogue, but both have been great. My first experience of his works was the disturbing slow-paced horror Audition, followed by the enjoyable 13 Assassins.

    Now that I have made this a third Miike viewing, this could very well be my favourite of the three. In a nutshell, this is the directors vision of True Grit but in the style of those samurai films from back in the day such as 'The One Armed Swordsman' and 'The 8 Diagram Pole-Fighter'.
    While I did a see lot of True Grit in here, it was originally a manga comic.

    If you are aware of the classic western story of True Grit, then you will be aware of the set-up. If not, then I would recommend checking out the John Wayne version before seeing this to understand the influences this film and the manga comics had.

    Despite the story being a familiar one, it still felt refreshing as the fun and exciting action and characters with a cartoon sensibility gave the story a great samurai edge to it.
    The set-pieces kept growing and the body count kept climbing, and the epic showdown had me thoroughly entertained.

    While there was no real depth to any characters, they certainly looked as if they had jumped out of a comic. So I assume they are keeping to the source material rather well.
    Takuya Kimura did a great job as the central male character. His bad-*** no-nonsense style his character gave him freedom to just own his scenes, and his multiple comedic one-liners would have made Arnold Schwarzenegger proud.
    Hana Sugisaki did a good job as the leading female. However, her character seem develop in reverse. We see her at first being a strong-willed female doing things that normal Japanese girls shouldn't do. Then as the story moves along, she seems to be unsure of herself. I can sort of see a reason as to why the character seemed to back-track her determination. But I think maybe going in a positive direction would have better enhanced her character.
    As for their chemistry, it was great. It felt like a big brother, little sister relationship.

    All of the other performances, are pretty much physical based. So in terms of the execution of their action choreography, Sota Fukushi, Hayato Ichihara, Erika Toda, Kazuki Kitamura and the many extras did everything that was expected of them.
    I also noticed Chiaki Kuriyama have a minor role in this. Some people may know her from Battle Royale, and most notably as Gogo Yubari from 'Kill Bill Vol. 1'.

    It's biggest positive is most definitely the action. When samurai set-pieces work, they are cinematic magic. From the choreography to the cinematography, the execution of these scenes were spot on. While it is over-the-top, it was supposed to be, and with the amount of extras in this, Miike and his team gave this film a great amount of scale that gave the film such realism.
    With lots of action comes a high body count and it never got boring or tiring.

    A couple of minor problems I noticed. The first was the sound timing issues and continuity it had in its action scenes. But with everything going at break-necked speed, you can sort of let this go.
    Also, there were are a lot of condensed sub-plots that were quickly introduced as well as ended.
    It is always going to fit everything from something that was originally a novel of any kind. So I think maybe making this a 3-hour film might have enhanced this story developments and made them feel more important and necessary.

    Despite those setbacks, I had a great watching this. It sets you up perfectly in a dramatic opening scene for what type of film you are going to get.
    The action is strong, the characters are fun and the script is similar to a mindless action blockbuster. That just gave it a nice fun element and I felt it never de-graded this story filled with bloody samurai violence.

    Rating: 8/10
     

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