Japan: a wandering samurai wanders onto a strange scene. In Hideo Gosha's debut film we find a talented storyteller able to both get in and make a samurai film, with all that that demands, but also get away with filling said samurai film with lots of criticisms and statements.
Looking at a film like this there's a lot to love. Great design, thoughtful scenes with a level of cool that's stunning, and good choreography and staging. It took a great eye to find these unique scenes.
The film as packed with activity, from intrigue to action and everything else, this is a dense film reminiscent of "The Conversation" in regards to the magnitudes of density that are packed into some sections but it never feels like the story is getting away from itself.
This is the story of three samurai finding their own path as a corrupt magistrate who has a chokehold on local villages attempts to save face after the abduction of his daughter by local peasants. Its as much a story of the magistrate as any of the samurai, they all are archetypes, but the magistrate really pushes the machinations of the story further as one foul move demands another. Yet this isn't just a morality tale, it's an honest criticism of not just elements like corruption which hurt our daily lives but the fact that it becomes mundane to not react to these events.
There's this weird humanism in the film as we are shown these emotional reactions are human but so i this respect for authority and place in society. Roles can give people something, as fantastical as that might seem, even if it isn't really helpful.
In the end the film gives us a series of reactions to look to. The reactions the samurai make to the magistrate or the villagers, the reaction of the magistrate to the samurai, and our reaction to the film. There's a lot of blood, I mean blood coming from really awesome sword fights, but still this is a violent and dark film through and through.
Though a serious samurai movie in many ways that doesn't take away from the viewing experience. A surprising watch, especially on a first viewing, this is one of those movies that's great but also leaves you with something to plod over. Repeated viewings are necessary if only to see your favorite lines again, and you will have favorite lines.