Tuesday, December 2, 2008
About four or five years ago, YHP went through a period he likes to call his "samurai phase" after taking home Akira Kurosawa's epic "Seven Samurai" from the local library and giving it a gander on one lazy Saturday afternoon. This ultimately achieved two ends: One, it made him a huge Kurosawa geek, gobbling up almost everything the great director ever did including the little watched but brilliant character study The Lower Depths and even his deeply weird aborted comeback, the hard-to-pronounce Dodesukaden. And two, it piqued a general interest in Samurai movies of the early 60's to the point that he wore a ridiculous, thrown together samurai outfit to a Halloween party which included his eight-year-old's plastic toy sword. Thankfully, he grew out of the samurai part of this phase before purchasing a set of real samurai swords from eBay (although he spent a LOT of time searching through them), but he still enjoys an IFC broadcast of Yojimbo from time to time.
Fast forward five years and YHP has finally re-activated his NetFlix account after finally getting tired of playing superhero and canceling his City Of Heroes subscription. NetFlix will apparently save your queue long after you are dead, so all of his previous selections are still there, including a Chicago Bears documentary and Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance. Now, to be honest, he really doesn't recall exactly why or how that specific movie made his queue (instead of say one of, say, Sword of Doom which he STILL hasn't seen all the way through), but in the interest of cleaning up his list, he moved it up and, along with the first DVD of the 3rd season of the re-launched Dr. Who, finally received it over the long Thanksgiving holiday. After watching it last night, lets just say it KILLS him that he went so long without viewing it.
Beautifully filmed, wonderfully written and raunchy and violent as fuck, LW&C:SOV is just magnificent. Tomisaburo Wakayama is perfect as Ogami Ittō, the "Lone Wolf" of the title - most of his screen time is spent walking around pushing his Baby Cart Of Certain Death with a permanent scowl on his face. He speaks little, but makes every subtitled word count. LW&C:SOV also avoids the pitfall that so many other films fall into, the unpredictable performance of child actors. In most films, even the most experienced kid can ruin a scene with a forced line reading or problems with being able to "tone down" a performance. Part of the reason is script never called for Akihiro Tomikawa to deliver any lines apart from a few coos, but make no mistake, director Kenji Misumi uses the younger of the duo to great effect - especially the scene where, with his world crumbling around him, Ittō forces his son to make a decision between the toy ball (joining his wife in the afterlife, i.e. dying at his father's hand) or the sword (becoming a wandering assassin with his father). It's one of the most awesome scenes he's seen in any movie, and when Ittō remarks that it would have been easier for his son if he had chosen the ball, you'll understand exactly where he's coming from.
Another great thing about the movie is it's depiction of the anti-hero. The protagonist of LW&C:SOV isn't a cuddly fellow. In fact, when he pieces together the treachery that causes him to be disgraced from his Shogun, he matter-of-factly states "I have decided to become a demon" and considering his first appearance in the film is acting as an official executioner of what looks like a seven-year-old boy, it's really not much of a step down. But Wakayama plays him with such an air of menace and dread that the viewer just can't help but eagerly watch to see who he's going to fuck up next.
Did I mention the movie also features buckets of blood spraying out of various orifices both natural and man-made? 'Cause it does! Titties, too! At times it's like a glimpse into a 14-year-old boy's id shot in vivid technicolor. So buy it or rent it or live it, but for God's sake SEE IT. Meanwhile, YHP is filling up his queue - the DVD also included trailers for a few of the 5 other Lone Wolf & Cub movies.
Oh, right. The next movie on the list is the horrible action movie Shotgun he's going to take to a little get-together this weekend.
But after that, it's back to the Land of Hungry Ghosts.