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Blade of the Immortal (Movie Review)

Blade of the Immortal (Movie Review)
11.10.2017by: Eric Walkuski
7 10

PLOT: An immortal samurai comes out of retirement to help a traumatized young girl seek revenge on the men who killed her father.

REVIEW: At the age of 57, and after 99 films, you can't say Japanese director Takashi Miike has lost any of the verve or lust for off-the-wall action that has characterized most of his films up until this point. Miike's BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL is apparently his 100th film, and it's a whopper of a samurai epic, buzzing with crazed energy and sporting an endless flurry of bloody action set-pieces. The film deploys a dependable narrative that is as old as time, the one about the grizzled killer who comes out of retirement to protect a feisty young girl from the forces of evil. You can call it LOGAN with samurais, Miike style, and you would not be far off.

The loner in question is Manji (Takuya Kimura), who in a rousing prologue cuts down dozens of bounty hunters after his little sister is murdered, only to be fatally sliced up himself. On the brink of death, he is saved - or cursed - by a strange old woman, who inserts "bloodworms" into his body, hence giving him immortality. 50 years later, Manji - unchanged save for several colorful scars - lives in quiet solitude, but is eventually found by young Rin (Hanna Sugisaki), who has just seen her father killed and her mother raped by a clan of dangerous swordsmen led by Anotsu (Sota Fukushi). Of course, all Manji wants is to be left alone and, he hopes, eventually die, but Rin reminds him of his fallen sister, and her story of injustice sparks some fire in his heart. They set out on a quest of revenge to take down Anotsu and his rogue band, which naturally won't be easy, even if Manji's immortality practically guarantees he can win any battle he enters.

Blade of the Immortal Takashi Miike movie review

From a storytelling perspective, BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL gifts us no surprises. Based on a popular Manga, the film's structure soon becomes very familiar: Manji and Rin will ultimately encounter many of Anotsu's henchman and Manji will do savage battle with each one of them. Rinse and repeat. Thankfully, Miike's talent for creating lively and bizarre characters comes in handy here, as each henchman is more eccentric than the last, with clever weapons a bonus. The fights are brutal and protracted, as the villains are all able to hold their own against Manji, who can still feel pain each time he's stabbed and sliced. (It's really no fun being immortal when you're still constantly being injured.) In between skirmishes, Manji teaches Rin valuable life lessons, and though they're always squabbling, he comes to respect, and maybe even love, her. Like its protagonist, the basics of BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL's story has been around for a long time.

At 140 minutes, the film is certainly quite long, and plenty of unnecessary meat could have been cut to streamline things. (The villain Anotsu's sections of the film, where he spars with the older guard who don't appreciate his methods, aren't nearly interesting enough to keep returning to.) But just when it seems BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL is wearing out its welcome, Miike will toss an insane new battle sequence our way, and we can't help but be dazzled by the intricacy of the action. Each fight is shot and cut rigorously, but it's never confusing trying to suss out what's going on; no ADD-style editing here. These bouts are bloody as hell, too, with the red stuff being sprayed left and right and countless limbs hacked off along the way. Typical of Miike, there's plenty of humor to be found in the violence; the director's hasn't lost any of his absurd comedic timing, and you'll be hard pressed to not have a smile on your face during all of the gory swordplay.

Overall, the film isn't likely to be remembered as one of Miike's best, certainly not one of his most outlandish. The characters are likable but unremarkable, and the story was dusty decades ago. But thanks to the still-fervent director, who proves here that even after 100 films he's still capable of delivering the goods with aplomb, BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL is a fun and skillfully-made bit of slice-and-dice entertainment. If lively swordplay is your thing, you'll find much to appreciate here.

Extra Tidbit: Blade of the Immortal is out now in theaters and on VOD

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