Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Film Review: Rurouni Kenshin (2012)

Rurouni Kenshin (Review)
Japan/2012
Format Viewed For Review: Blu-ray (Deltamac HK)
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...plenty of story to enjoy and even more fast-paced action..."

After the Battle of Toba-Fushimi, expertly skilled Hitokiri Battōsai abandons his sword for the life of a wanderer. A decade later, the former Battōsai, now calling himself Himura Kenshin (Takeru Satoh), wanders rural Japan offering help and aid through the use of his reverse-blade sword...

First, I'm not at all familiar with the source material -- I've heard of the manga beforehand, but I've never actually read it -- so, please bare with me if I mess anything up. Rurouni Kenshin starts with a lot of information to digest, and it continues like this for a bulk of the film. The story follows Kenshin, who has vowed never to kill again, as he helps Kamiya Kaoru, who runs her late father's dojo. Meanwhile, Takani Megumi escapes from the drug lord, Takeda Kanryū, who has forced her to make opium. Their paths cross when Kanryū wants and forcefully attempts to take Kaoru's dojo, where Megumi has secretly found refuge. Kenshin is willing to protect them, but he will not kill. But, certain actions from Kanryū may lead Kenshin to kill once more. It all leads to an action-packed third act and a fantastic ending.

Rurouni Kenshin has a very interesting and entertaining story. And it will keep you hooked considering how much you have to digest. In fact, I skipped quite a few plot points for the sake of keeping this review as short as possible. Regardless, there's plenty of story to enjoy and even more fast-paced action; there are plenty of quick sword fights, with great speed and skill. The final act features a great variety of action, including fist fights and sword fights, 1 on 1 and 2 vs dozens. And, there are plenty of fights throughout the story to keep you further engaged. The story itself is great, and it's even a bit on the meaningful side; Kenshin is explored deeply, and the fight of morality is evident. I did feel like the story was a bit compressed, though. There are certain characters, like Jin-e and Sanosuke, who barely get the light of day, but feel like they should've had much strong roles, especially considering their use in the ending. It feels like the plot skimped on some significant character development. Rurouni Kenshin is one of those films that's already on the lengthy side, but it would've benefitted from a longer run time.

The whole cast is fantastic. Takeru Satoh is great as the titular character, he has a strong screen presence and he has plenty of charm. The production values are very high, with incredible set designs and costumes. These are further amplified by the beautiful cinematography and slick camerawork. The musical score is also fantastic, fitting the setting -- it really helps create some thrilling and epic action sequences, as well. The action choreography is fresh and creative; the action is really different from the traditional samurai movies, and it feels refreshing. The English subtitles for the Hong Kong Blu-ray are great -- grammatical and spelling issues are kept at a minimal and never hinder the experience. Director Keishi Ōtomo captures the manga/anime mood without sacrificing any film qualities; although the plot feels compressed, you can see he fits as much as possible into the film, and the action sequences are also superbly directed.

Overall, Rurouni Kenshin is a fantastic samurai film. The story is engaging and entertaining, the action is fantastic, the style is distinct and refreshing, and it even manages to deliver some subtly strong messages. I did wish it delved deeper into some of the characters it introduced, though, the story does ultimately feel compressed.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood.

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