If you're not familiar with the works of director Takashi Miike then by all means become so. This Japanese director has been making feature films since 1995 and is recognized as one of the most influential directors of his generation. His first major splash in the US came with the film ICHI THE KILLER, a yakuza film known for its brutal depiction of violence. Here we are 22 years later and Miike has just unleashed his 100th film as a director. No small feat, especially or perhaps in spite of his not being a member of Hollywood. And BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL is an amazing film to behold.
Based on the manga comic of the same name the movie tells the story of Manji, a Samurai on the run after killing a corrupt official and his bodyguards. Unfortunately he's done so in front of one of the guard's wife who goes mad. Now he feels obligated to protect her. It isn't long before bounty hunters track him down, kill the woman and launch Manji into a fit of rage with him attacking all 100 of them. Mortally wounded an 800 year old nun approaches him and gives him new life by placing magical bloodworms inside his body, providing him with immortality.
50 years pass and Kagehisa Anotsu and the Itt-ry clan are making their way across Japan and giving fencing schools the option of either joining them or being eliminated. One of the schools they approach refuses and the school's leader is killed in front of his young daughter Rin. Rin escapes and swears revenge. Seeking help she learns of Manji and approaches him to help her and he refuses.
That all changes when Rin is attacked by Sabato Kuroi, a member of the Itt-ry clan, who approaches her with her mother's head mounted on his shoulder. Manji comes to the rescue and agrees to be Rin's bodyguard.
As well as training Rin, Manji protects her by fending off attacks from other various members of the Itt-ry clan. Each battle displays his weaknesses to both Rin and his attackers and each one uses those weaknesses to their advantage. While Manji is immortal it doesn't mean he can't be severely wounded.
As this is going on more plotlines are moving forward, in particular and offer delivered to Kagehisa Anotsu from the Shogunate to train the leader's warriors. Before doing so he plans on visiting a dojo leader on Mt. Takao. But as with most stories neither plot moves in a straight line and crosses and double crosses on both sides occur leading to a climactic battle involving one of the largest and most impressive swords battles ever captured on film.
If all of this weren't enough there are two subplots taking place here as well. The first is the revenge motif on display not just from Rin but from Anotsu as well. One segment has him explain why he's doing all of this. The second is the question of immortality. Some would think it a blessing but here we see it as a curse. To live forever and to watch others fall while you carry on, to have next to no purpose in life and yet be forced to live on watching others move forward it the burden that Manji bears. When he meets another immortal, a warrior who has lived 800 years and wants nothing more than death, he's forced to confront his reason for existence.
Miike's use of extreme violence is well on display here but far less than has been seen in his previous films or for that matter in any number of gore drenched horror films in recent years. While blood may flow at various times it isn't the gushing display seen in most movies these days. Here the violence ties into the story and the times it takes place in, a time when razor honed swords wound their way through flesh like a hot knife through butter. This was the way of life for a warrior in Japan then and Miike captures it with flair.
But the story is not based on fact, the immortality should have given that away, but on a story that melds comic book mentality with legends of long ago. Call it a disturbing fairy tale with hints of dark comedy thrown in for good measure. Miike takes these elements and mixes them with his own style to create a fascinating movie.
On top of a great story this movie looks amazing. The cinematography here, much of it taking place outdoors and with a vast number of extras in huge battle sequences, is a sight to behold. And those fights involve stunt work and blade avoidance that flawless.
There may be movies more familiar with movie fans or renters released this week but for me this was the best being offered. Dubbed for those who hate subtitles, make sure you look for this one.
Blade of the Immortal
Action / Drama / Fantasy
Blade of the Immortal
Action / Drama / Fantasy
Manji, a highly skilled samurai, becomes cursed with immortality after a legendary battle. Haunted by the brutal murder of his sister, Manji knows that only fighting evil will regain his soul. He promises to help a young girl named Rin avenge her parents, who were killed by a group of master swordsmen led by ruthless warrior Anotsu. The mission will change Manji in ways he could never imagine - the 100th film by master director Takashi Miike.
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February 13, 2018 at 08:59 AM