The movie tells of a rather skilled and tall Samurai named Kazamatsuri who is being bestowed with the job of guarding a precious sword given to his clan by a powerful Shogun some 80 years ago. Showing tremendous trust, the clan hands over the sword to Kazamatsuri while he is still a relatively new member of the clan, whereas normally a more trusted member would receive such an honor.
So Kazamatsuri decides to do a runner and steal the sword!
The head of the clan’s son, Inukai Heishiro, takes it upon himself to take the sword back. He is joined by his two good friends, all of them very young and often referred to as ‘The 3 Stooges’. Heishiro’s father sends Ninja’s out to protect them, as he tried to convince him that he is not skilled enough to take on Kazamatsuri.
Heishiro meets up with Kazamatsuri, he and his two friends go into battle and lose very decisively, with one losing his life. Heishiro recovers at the house of a master Swordsman named Hanbei and his daughter Koharu.
From there Heishiro tried to recover and plan his attack against Kazamatsuri, who is currently staying at a local gambling house and plans to have a sword fight with Hanbei.
An interesting Character driven story
This movie is more about the individual characters then the overall direction of the plot. It has a good way of keeping things more realistic, showing some of the Samurai (especially Heishiro) as being young, naive and fooling around a lot and acting a little more human than what I’m used to seeing in Samurai films.
We see Heishiro’s urge for revenge being rather dominant while at the same time he develops feelings for Koharu. Meanwhile we are given some insight into Hanbei’s philosophy.
Hanbei believes killing is never the answer. He even steps in against Kazamatsuri to save Heishiro and doesn’t even draw his sword. We learn a little bit more as the movie progresses and the relationship between him, Heishiro and Koharu develops.
Just as interesting is Kazamatsuri’s stay at the gambling house. He walks in and acts almost as if he owns the place and the woman in charge bends over backwards to please him despite being rather aggressive toward the other men there. A decent chunk of the movie revolves around these scenarios before kicking back into the action at the end of the film.
The Action & Martial Arts
Much like the characters, the action seems a little more grounded and realistic in many ways also.
The movements and fights aren’t glorified but are presented in a way that show what i think is closer tan actual sword fight and how that might look to a spectator in real life, with a only few moments where things are spruced up just a little. This style of action is interesting to watch but sacrifices a bit of excitement in the process. I think this movie was intended to be less action driven and more story/character driven.
Being that this is a modern movie displayed in black and white, the use of color is very minor but effective. With every kill the screen changes into a black & red display as the character dies. This is a pretty cool little way making it absolutely clear that a character is dead, not just wounded.
Bits and pieces of action are spread throughout the movie, with best being at the end during the fight between Kazamatsuri and Hanbei. But overall the action isn’t that great.
Would I recommend it?
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good movie that is pretty interesting to watch. But as far as martial arts goes it’s pretty straight forward, watch it for the story & characters and not the action.