Here's the thing about Re:Born -- It plays like someone took a couple of years-worth of a sports manga (Japanese comic) about knife-fighting and turned it into a 100-minute movie. Think of a young men's manga series about fighting like Grappler Baki or Tough. Re:Born has all of the hallmarks of this type of manga:
- Obsessive attention to small details of the sport, in this case being subtle changes in fighting techniques and stances, or use of different strategies and weapons.
- Each fight being a story in itself
- Sudden bursts of emotion from otherwise macho super-killer men -- In this case, tough men suddenly wailing and confiding that their greatest regret was not being able to die for their friend during battle.
- A succession of outlandish opponents introduced abruptly, all displaying over-the-top sadism or weird, excessive dedication to their sport. Example: One guy in Re:born chains his knife into his forearm tendons so that he'll never lose his weapon!
- Finally, a hero who is superhumanly talented in the sport, able to dodge bullets like normal people would dodge a paper airplane.
The main difference from these manga is that there is no narrator or thought bubble explaining the intricacies of what's going on. "Oh, he changed his stance to become more limber and dodge the throat strikes!" You just have to pay attention. And pay attention you should, as the fights are extremely fast and intricate. The choreographer did a great job varying the moves and building up the intensity of the fights. You never feel like they are the same, even though they are almost all knife fights. There's also a bunch of stuff here I don't think I've seen in other movies before.
So, if you like this kind of manga or think you would, then definitely check out Re:Born. If you're a martial arts cinema fanatic who really pays attention to the fine details of a fight scene, then definitely check out Re:Born. If you like Japanese action trash films with a nihilistic bent (hello, early Takashi Miike), then Re:Born may be your jam. BUT if you want a clear, cohesive plot, interesting dialogue, and emotional payoffs, then stay the hell away from this movie. It's not for you and was never meant to be.