If you have not heard of Takashi Miiki, this is the opportunity to get acquainted with the Japanese writer/director who has made 99 films so far with this one BLADE OFTHE IMMORTAL based on Hiroaki Samura’s ground-breaking and award-winning manga, being his 100th film. Most of his films, violent as they are never get a commercial release in Canada.
Miiki is famous for action samurai films but he is also well known for his modern horror flicks, especially AUDITION, which is one film guaranteed to make one cringe – imagine steel wire supported by bricks dismembering ones foot.
BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL follows the hero of the story, Manji (Takuya Kimura), a highly skilled samurai who 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.
In period samurai pieces, interest is often lost without personalizing the story. This one has Rin who hires Manji to avenge her father – a story reminiscent of TRUE GRIT.
For amusement, Miiki inserts a debate on what is good and what evil is, only to tear apart the concept a few moments after.
The straightforward samurai revenge flick is built around the platonic, primal ideal of what a samurai movie can be. Still, as in Miiki’s films, BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL is a non-stop symphony of murder and steel filled with unbelievable weapons, gruesome amputations, rivers of blood, and charismatic warriors. It is a 2 hour 20 minute saga, though interest never flails. It features spectacular fight scenes with a whole array of imaginative weapons, and a climactic battle reportedly involving some 300 people that took more than two weeks to film.
Miiki takes his time to establish his villain. The villain is one Anotsu, not just a villain with no character. He has his principle of fighting one on one, and not playing with children as he deems it vulgar. He is a pretty boy with luscious lips, always decked in a gorgeous robe, obviously better looking than the hero, who has a scar right across his face. That is Miiki’s weird humour that makes his film and his characters stand out against others.
Miiki remembers too that in spite of all, BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL is an action sword fitting flick. So, the battles and fights are well choreographed and exciting enough to satisfy die hard fans. There is a little combination of horror and action in the film, but the horror is not as disturbing as in his other films like AUDITION. Still, there are a lot of chopped off hands, feet and limbs.
BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL premiered at Cannes and at the Reel Asian International Film Festival in Toronto.