Takashi Miike movies are like Kurosawa on bath salts
Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo
Blade Of The Immortal
We call filmmakers like Woody Allen and Ridley Scott prolific but they have nothing on Japanese auteur Takashi Miike. The productive director averages three movies per year. They’re not self-contained chamber pieces either: Miike has a flair for spectacle and it shows every time. His batting average isn’t that high, but he has left his mark in horror (Audition), ultra-violence (Ichi the Killer) and period action (13 Assassins).
For his 100th film, the 57-year-old filmmaker got a large budget to adapt the popular manga Blade of the Immortal. The outcome is vintage Miike: stunning, vicious and self-indulgent.
Cursed to roam the land for eternity after a battle in sacred land, Manji (Takuya Kimura, 2046) is hired by a young girl to avenge her parents, victims of a gang of swordsmen who want to corner the realm’s dojo market (that old cliche). The mission gives Manji, who was indirectly responsible for the death of his younger sister, a shot at redemption.
The somewhat thin plot is an excuse to allow a series of bloody swordfights. Thankfully, they are all spectacular. Much like a videogame, Manji faces increasingly difficult rivals and comes to the realization he’s not as invulnerable as he has been led to believe. Miike’s battle-staging skills are pushed to the limit a couple of times with Manji facing hundreds of swordsmen by himself. The choreography is exquisite and the abundant splattering and maiming supports the story (sigh, if only I could write that more often).
At two hours 20 minutes, Blade of the Immortal overstays its welcome (a subplot involving a goon impersonating Manji should have been beheaded) but overall, it’s a blast for anyone who likes samurai movies without the thinky, talky parts.