Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Blade of the Immortal (無限の住人) - Movie Review

The Movie: Blade of the Immortal (無限の住人)

The Director: Takashi Miike (100th film)

The Cast: Takuya Kimura, Hana Sugisaki, Sōta Fukushi, Hayato Ichihara, Erika Toda, Kazuki Kitamura, Chiaki Kuriyama, Shinnosuke Mitsushima, Ichikawa Ebizō XI, Min Tanaka, Tsutomu Yamazaki

The Story: A highly skilled samurai gains unwanted immortality from an 800 year old witch after winning a legendary battle that would have otherwise been his demise. He now must protect a young girl, who reminds him of his sister that died in the same battle, on her quest for revenge.

The Review:
For Takashi Miike's 100th film, he has created a classic, tale of bloody revenge that is also a coming of age tale and a study of how life is viewed when faced with immortality. That might seem like some heavy stuff, but, in this case, it really isn't. The focus is on high flying fight scenes where limbs and blood are left scattered across the battlefield and hundreds of bodies are left to rot while the heroes and villains continue their journeys. If you're not super familiar with this type Japanese martial arts movie, think of the Bride versus the Crazy 88's in Kill Bill volume 1 but for two hours.

The action is very well done although the slicing and dicing does get a bit redundant at times. The best moments are the one on one fights between the hero Manji, played by Takuya Kimura, and whichever opponent has stepped up to challenge him. There is a lot of creativity when it comes to how Manji's immortality comes into play during the fights as well as with the different types of weapons being used, how they are used, and how they complement each person's skills. The down moments are when anyone is fighting a large crowd of disposable warriors because it's hard to stay engaged for very long while the primary character is easily hacking their way through.

Of course, there's more to this movie than fighting, there are several story lines that are all woven together nicely, beginning with Manji who, in the opening minutes of the movie, is betrayed, sees his sister get killed, nearly gets killed himself, is given immortality by a witch, and then, 50 years later, is hired as a bodyguard by the young Rin Asano...who looks just like his sister (Hana Sugisaki plays both parts). I feel like the dynamic between the two could have been explored a bit further although there really wasn't time with everything going on. Still, they get to have a lot of great teacher/student moments together, some played for comedy and others as part of the drama.

One of the themes that is touched on repeatedly is how heroism and villainy can be the same thing depending on someone's point of view. This is best exemplified by the villain Anotsu Kagehisa, played by Sôta Fukushi, who seems less and less villain-like as we learn more about him as the story progresses. Another theme that was mostly missing from the movie is romance which I really didn't have a problem with as there really wasn't any space for it, especially with the two lead characters being so far apart in age. The one spot it shows up involves Kagehisa and ends up being pretty powerful in its tragedy. When you watch the movie, you''ll understand.

The Verdict:
Blade of the Immortal is a fine effort from one of Japan's most prolific directors and is one of the more entertaining movies I watched all year. If you can find it in a theater, definitely check it out as it is bold, colorful, action packed and perfect for big screen viewing.

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