Posts Tagged ‘samurai’

The Great Killing

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

tn_greatkillingRecently I had a stressful week I knew would be spent largely in hospital waiting rooms, so I thought real hard about what kind of movie I could rent that would be comforting to me if I ever got home to watch it. I could’ve gone for a movie I’ve already seen a million times and love, like DIE HARD or something. For some reason my heart said “old samurai movie.”

I don’t know for sure what it is about these things that they appeal to me so much. In a way they’re difficult: I’m completely ignorant of the historical periods depicted, and I have a hard time keeping track of some of the character names and terminology. But in another sense they’re simple. The heroes are always working from a code. They explain the code and then they struggle to follow it, even though they’re living in a dishonorable world, working in a dishonorable system. For them there’s no choice but to follow the code, because they know anyone who doesn’t is an asshole. And then there’s a big sword fight.

There’s usually alot of quiet moments in these movies, rarely an overbearing score, and there’s the simple black and white imagery. Kinda calming to me. So I chose to soothe my soul with a movie about the great killing, and I’m afraid that’s as in “the huge killing,” not “the really good killing.” (read the rest of this shit…)

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

tn_harakiriWow, Takashi Miike’s got another great samurai remake under his belt, and this time as far as I’ve heard he didn’t even have to cut out a demon-rape scene to make it classy. Like 13 ASSASSINS it’s got a strong mood and great story built upon the great structure (I’m told) of the original (Masaki Kobayashi’s HARAKIRI [1962]). A word of warning, though: this one is not the action spectacular that 13 A’S is. It’s closer to the classical tradition where it’s a drama about castes, codes, corruption and conflict, and eventually you know they’re gonna pull out the swords, but that’s the cherry on top, not the actual ice cream.

I’d heard that, and it made me hesitant, but it turns out it wasn’t necessary. This is one of the best movies I’ve seen in the last year. I loved it. Not just a LIMITS OF CONTROL “this is trying my patience but is intellectually interesting in some ways” type of appreciation. Even watching it late one night after work I found it genuinely engrossing from beginning to end (although I had to have somebody decode the final scene for me because by that time it was past 3 am and I was losing consciousness). (read the rest of this shit…)

13 Assassins (1963)

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Thanks to Takashi Miike’s outstanding remake, this samurai classic has finally been released with subtitles for the Japanese impaired. Also, thanks to the remake, I knew to watch it.

If you saw the remake then you know the story: a guy commits sepukku in protest of the Shogun’s brother, Lord Umigetsu. This forces the ruling class to discuss the uncomfortable fact that a total fuckin maniac is in line to inherit the throne. You can imagine how socially awkward this would be in any society, but this is one where they take ranking, protocol and manners very seriously. I mean, I just told you how he had to kill himself in protest. Not write an editorial. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Loose Canon: LONE WOLF AND CUB: SWORD OF VENGEANCE & BABYCART AT THE RIVER STYX vs. SHOGUN ASSASSIN

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Every now and then I write a more-in-depth-than-usual study of a movie I consider important and influential in the evolution of Badass Cinema, a movie I believe most fans of the genre would love and all should see and have an opinion on. I call this series THE LOOSE CANON.

* * *

In 1980, a violent samurai movie called SHOGUN ASSASSIN hit American shores. It is the story of Lone Wolf, an assassin trying to avenge the murder of his wife by the Shogun he used to work for. He travels Japan by foot pushing a babycart that  carries a number of weapons and his son Daigoro – who also narrates the movie – and eventually kills the Shogun’s brother. With its weird tone and garish violence, and coming right at the beginning of the decade when Americans became obsessed with Japanese traditions like karate and ninjas, the movie took on a legendary status in pop culture that lasts to this day. Its dialogue and primitive synthesizer score were heavily sampled on the seminal 1995 hip hop album Liquid Swords by GZA, and also heard in KILL BILL VOLUME 2 as little Bebe’s chosen bed time movie.

The one problem with SHOGUN ASSASSIN: it’s an insultingly dumbed down bastardization of two excellent 1972 Japanese films, LONE WOLF AND CUB: SWORD OF VENGEANCE and LONE WOLF AND CUB: BABYCART AT THE RIVER STYX (the first two installments in a six movie series). (read the rest of this shit…)

Three Outlaw Samurai

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

I never heard of this one until the good ol’ Criterion Collection put it out a few months ago. I was intrigued by the title, which seems to indicate that it is about a trio of samurai who are each outlaws of some kind. And it’s a well-chosen title because that is exactly what it’s about.

It’s a Japanese picture from 1964, so it’s shot in beautiful black and white. It’s the directational debut of Hideo Gosha, whose next movie SWORD OF THE BEAST was also released by Criterion. The story involves three elderly peasants who kidnap the magistrate’s daughter and keep her hostage in a mill. Shit is real bad for the 8 clans in the area and the magistrate won’t listen to their appeals so they got desperate. Some JOHN Q type shit. (read the rest of this shit…)

13 Assassins

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

tn_13assassins13 ASSASSINS is a pretty straightforward and thoroughly badass samurai picture from director Takashi Miike. I know that guy’s known for making 2 or 3 crazy fucked up movies a year. I think the only one I’ve seen before is AUDITION, which I thought was a pretty good romantic comedy but not quite up to the hype as the most fucked in the head movie you ever saw. Pretty well done though. Anyway, this is different.
(read the rest of this shit…)

Yojimbo, Fistful of Dollars and Last Man Standing

Thursday, August 9th, 2007

YOJIMBO
and
FISTFUL OF DOLLARS
and – why the hell not -
LAST MAN STANDING

I’ve been doing alot of themed movie-watching lately and I don’t want that to grow stale, so I decided to mix things up a little. Three movies starring my favorite badasses, but from different years and different countries. Just a real variety of material here. YOJIMBO is about this bad motherfucker who wanders into a small town torn apart by two warring gangs, and he goes back and forth working for them, plays them against each other, rescues a woman from them then gets beaten up real bad but escapes and hides out and then tricks them some more and also I forgot to mention there’s alot of good jokes about the town coffin maker getting business from his activities. FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, on the other hand, is about this bad motherfucker who wa– hey, wait a minute! (read the rest of this shit…)

Blind Fury

Thursday, July 12th, 2007

Well they got spaghetti western versions of the samurai movies, they got American versions of Japanese horror movies, they got a black version of THE ODD COUPLE. So if it’s 1989 and you’re Australian director Philip Noyce (THE QUIET AMERICAN, RABBIT-PROOF FENCE), why not do a white version of ZATOICHI with Rutger Hauer as a soldier blinded and left for dead in Vietnam, nursed and trained in swordsmanship and now wandering the sides of American highways ready to unleash his sword-cane if it comes to it?

That Vietnam origin story, by the way, is all taken care of during the opening credits, which is admirable. No time wasted. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Hunted (1995)

Tuesday, May 1st, 2007

After reviewing Franco Nero in the white ninja movie ENTER THE NINJA, I got some suggestions to check out THE HUNTED. I’m pretty sure at least one person tried to get me to review this a long time ago, so I hope you will enjoy this and forgive me for taking so long.

Christopher Lambert plays a white businessman who, along with his colleagues, has just wrapped up a big sale one night in Tokyo. Don’t get too excited, he’s not a ninja businessman, just a regular one in a suit and tie. Christopher decides not to go utilize some geishas with his buddies, instead going to a bar to drink by himself. But he sees Joan Chen (ON DEADLY GROUND), drinks some sake with her, ends up going back to her hotel with her. At first he’s very shy and polite, doesn’t go inside, but she invites him in for traditional Japanese hot tub sex. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Sword of Doom

Tuesday, June 6th, 2006

When the Criterion company puts out a DVD, and the title doesn’t rhyme with either THE SCHROCK or SCHMARMAGEDDON, you know it’s probaly a pretty good movie. And everybody loves a good samurai picture so I’ve had my eye on this THE SWORD OF DOOM for a while now. What finally inspired me to watch it though is the ballots for the revision of the Badass 100. It hasn’t been rated as many times as alot of the other movies, but so far every single person who’s rated it has given it a perfect 10. It seems like they like it.

Sure enough, this is a good one. It’s basically the story of a crazy fuckin bastard goin around killing people for no reason in samurai times. The guy’s name is Ryunosuke and he’s played by Tatsuya Nakadai, who I guess is in some of Kurosawa’s pictures. The Japanese title actually means “Dai-bosatsu Pass” which is the location of the opening scene where we first meet this psychotic fuck. And right away you get this feeling that something horrible is gonna happen because the opening title says something like “Spring 1860, the Dai-bosatsu Pass Incident.” Like what’s about to happen is some horrible notorious thing we’ve all heard about before. Gulp. (read the rest of this shit…)