Takashi Miike movies are like Kurosawa on bath salts

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Blade Of The Immortal
Broadway Theatre
3.5 out of 5

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.