Blade of the Immortal

Blade-Immortal-2017-rev Blade of the Immortal  (2017)    Magnet/Action-Drama    RT: 140 minutes    Rated R (bloody violence and carnage throughout)    Director: Takashi Miike    Screenplay: Tetsuya Oishi    Music: Koji Endo    Cinematography: Nobuyasu Kita    Release date: November 3, 2017 (Philadelphia, PA)    Cast: Takuya Kimura, Hana Sugisaki, Sota Fukushi, Hayato Ichihara, Erika Toda, Kazuki Kitamura, Chiaki Kuriyama, Shinnosuke Mitsushima, Ichikawa Ebizo XI, Min Tanaka, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Yoko Yamamoto.      Spoken in Japanese w/English subtitles

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 For his 100th movie, director Takashi Miike (Ichi the Killer) pulls out all the stops with Blade of the Immortal, a blood-soaked samurai flick that has an immortal warrior helping a young girl avenge the deaths of her parents. This movie is cool! In fact, it’s more than cool; it’s Quentin Tarantino cool. I can see him being a fan of this movie which is based on the 30-volume manga series by Hiroaki Samura. It has a good storyline, lots of action and swordplay, great fight choreography, severed limbs and rivers of blood. It’s a gorgeously rendered epic that shows off Miike’s skills as a filmmaker in every frame. He’s as fearless a (cinematic) samurai as the movie’s hero and every bit the (cinematic) bad ass. It should come as no surprise that Blade of the Immortal is AWESOME!

 blade of the immortalManji (Kimura) has much to atone for. He’s responsible for the deaths of many samurai including the husband of his younger sister Machi (Sugisaki). He also fails to protect her from a gang of bounty hunters who kill her right in front of him. Manji dispatches all of them and appears on the verge of death when an ancient witch (Yamamoto) gives him the gift/curse of immortality. She puts bloodworms in his body that magically heal all wounds and reattach severed limbs. Fifty years later, a girl named Rin (also played by Sugisaki) tracks him down and asks for his help in killing her parents’ killers, a group of assassins led by Anotsu (Fukushi) called the Itto-ryu. He wants all the martial arts dojos to teach the same sneaky, underhanded technique. All who refuse meet a violent end. This is what happens to Rin’s father as she looks on helplessly.

 Even though he’s not keen on helping anybody, Manji is swayed by how Rin reminds him of his late sister. He can’t fail her a second time so he accepts the task. At first, he takes on members of the assassin team one-on-one while Anotsu is summoned by shogunate presumably to be made master of the martial arts school he wants to form. The action in Blade of the Immortal keeps accelerating. At one point, Manji encounters another group, the Mugia-ryu, that also wants to wipe out the Itto-ryu. It all culminates in one of the awesome fight scenes I’ve ever seen with Manji and Rin against more than 100 opponents.

 Keeping in mind that Blade of the Immortal consists of 30 volumes, Miike does a good job with the movie adaptation. It gets a bit crowded in the second half and it feels episodic but he has mostly succeeded in fashioning a coherent, non-confusing story from the wealth of material. It’s not as balletic as his 13 Assassins but the characters still have some great moves. The fights with Manji’s supernatural powers and the combatants’ gravity-defying moves and the gushing blood tend to be over the top but isn’t that what makes these samurai flicks such fun to watch?

 I think Blade of the Immortal is brilliant in many ways. Miike populates him film with memorable supporting characters like a woman warrior, Makie (Toda), who cries after she kills. He gives us elements of espionage and intrigue on top of the action and fantasy. Kimura is good as Manji. Sugisaki is also good as Rin. She may be female but she’s no damsel in distress. She’s more than capable of holding her own in combat. The cinematography by Nobuyasu Kita is beautiful. The special effects are well-done. Blade of the Immortal is fun, exciting and, at times, breathtaking. The fight scenes are amazing! I love that the blood flows and limbs fly so freely. One of the best things about not making movies within the Hollywood system is that the filmmaker isn’t obligated to deliver a PG-13 movie that the kiddies can see. Miike doesn’t hold back in Blade of the Immortal and it’s all the better for it. I really love this movie. I can’t wait to see it again. 

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