Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Samurai Marathon - Movie Review

The Movie: Samurai Marathon

The Director: Bernard Rose

The Cast: Takeru Satoh, Nana Komatsu, Mirai Moriyama, Shota Sometani, Munetaka Aoki, Ryu Kohata, Yuta Koseki, Danny Huston

The Story: In 1855, a daimyo sends his men on a grueling marathon to discover if they're tough enough to face the newly arrived Americans. Misunderstanding his intent, the Shogun dispatches assassins.

The Review:
Samurai Marathon is loosely based on an actual event that led to a real life annual marathon honoring the people that we see in this movie. I think that's what this movie is about. I'm actually not quite sure what Bernard Rose was trying to accomplish with this movie, it's a bit of a comedy, it's a period piece, and it's, at times, a bloody action sword twirling epic. I guess the light hearted nature is telling the audience not to take the story too seriously as it breezes through a bunch of introduction and exposition which is fine if not a bit confusing.

If you aren't paying full attention during the first act, the wealth of characters in the movie is going to be impossible to piece back together so make sure you dig in right from the start. I would say when the marathon race begins, that's when things get really entertaining and at that point the whole thing reminded me of the old Wacky Racers cartoon. There's small groups and pairs that form up and they're all out to beat each other and it's quick to see right away who the contenders are. There's a dastardly trio that bumbles through all of their attempts at sabotage, an old man and a young boy who are just trying to finish, and so on.

As I say all that, I don't want to give the impression that this is some silly comedy, it's not. There are just some light hearted elements that carry through the entire movie. One of the things I was most impressed with was the sword fighting which was in no way exaggerated or sensationalized, it came off as very realistic, very effective, and kind of brutal actually. The choreography was really well done and I loved how the cinematographer used a lot of wide shots so you get to see all kinds of stuff going on instead of just close ups which to me is a way to cheat when it comes to action.

None of the individual characters really stood out to me, I think because there are so many people ad so much going on, you never get enough time with one story line to really engage although this isn't really a complaint. I was fine with how the movie moved along and didn't linger on anyone or any thing for too long. With a run time of just under two hours, I felt like Rose is giving the audience just enough to be entertained without being too dramatic or preachy about any of the subject matter.

The Verdict:
Samurai Marathon sprints through it's epic story and crosses the finish line with a not so serious take on a pivotal point in Japanese history. Overall the movie is just okay, at least until the swords come out and then the real fun begins. Definitely worth a look.

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