Monday, January 1, 2018

Film Review: Blade of the Immortal (2017)

Blade of the Immortal (Review)
Japan/2017
Format Viewed for Review: Google Movies & TV
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...imagine the grittiness of 13 Assassins blended with the unique characters of a manga or anime and this is what you get."

After the murder of her father, Rin Asano (Hana Sugisaki) seeks vengeance and asks Manji (Takuya Kimura), an immortal samurai, to serve as her bodyguard.

Blade of the Immortal begins by introducing Manji, a talented samurai. After murdering a corrupt lord and his bodyguards, Manji finds himself surrounded by a hundred bounty hunters. The leader kills his sister, which leads to a legendary battle where Manji kills all of them. In the process, Manji is gravely injured. However, he is 'saved' by Yaobikuni, a mysterious woman who implants sacred bloodworms into his body, granting him immortality. Fast forward fifty years: Rin Asano's family is attacked by Kagehisa Anotsu (Sōta Fukushi) and his group, the Ittō-ryū. Rin seeks vengeance, so she convinces Manji to help her—and so he does. They set out to defeat Anotsu and his gang. There is a lot more to the story, this film is based on a manga after all, but I think that's enough of a summary from me. Hopefully it captured your attention because the plot is interesting. It leads to a bloody climax and a great ending.

Blade of the Immortal is a great film. If you liked 13 Assassins and the Rurouni Kenshin movies, I think it's safe to say: you're going to enjoy this movie. It is based on a manga, so it has very unique and quirky elements, but it's also from director Takashi Miike, who has directed a few gritty, violent samurai movies. So, imagine the grittiness of 13 Assassins blended with the unique characters of a manga or anime and this is what you get. It's not over-the-top, though, so if you're not a fan of manga/anime, don't let that dissuade you. The story is engaging and entertaining, the characters are their relationships are effective and interesting, and the action is superb and plentiful. In terms of action, there is some amazing swordplay here. It gets very gory, too. There's also some humor sprinkled into the mix, keeping the movie from growing stale.

Blades of the Immortal doesn't have any significant flaws, but it isn't perfect. Some of the characters are introduced as significant parts of the story, but they don't get the time to shine—like Shira. This leaves some subplots feeling underdeveloped or incomplete. Maybe the film was cut down, maybe it's being saved for a sequel. Regardless, the issue still stands. On top of that, the film is long. Yes, most of the runtime is filled efficiently, but there are moments where the film drags or where it becomes a bit repetitive.

Takuya Kimura and Hana Sugisaki were great as the leads. They shared great chemistry, too. The supporting cast, like Sōta Fukushi, were also good. The film was shot beautifully. From its black-and-white introduction to its gory finale, the film was stylish and attractive every step of the way. The music was also great, blending perfectly with the setting and tone. The action choreography was superb, too. The film was written by Tetsuya Oishi and directed by Takashi Miike. The writing was mostly good. I can't tell if the issues I mentioned earlier were caused on the cutting room floor or if it was just Oishi's writing, so I can't really fault him. If there's a sequel in the works, I hope Oishi can tie up loose ends. Takashi is a master filmmaker. This film showcases all of his skills. From its style to its narrative flow, from its performances to its action sequences, Takashi always has a vision and he rarely fails to deliver it without compromise. I'm always looking forward to seeing more from him.

Overall, Blade of the Immortal is a great samurai action film. As I stated earlier, if you're a fan of 13 Assassins or the Rurouni Kenshin movies, if you've always wanted to watch a hybrid of those movies, this is for you. It's a little lengthy and it has some incomplete subplots, but it ultimately delivers a very entertaining experience.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore.

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