Tag Archives: Samurai


47 Ronin, Big Ninja Boss, Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tadanobu Asano, Rinko Kikuchi, Ko Shibasaki, Min Tanaka, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Jin Akanishi, Masayoshi Haneda, Masayuki Deai, Togo Igawa, Gedde Watanabe,

47 Ronin [mild spoilers]: follows a group of disgraced samurai as they set out to avenge their murdered master. As it’s a Hollywood film it obviously contains every single ‘western portrayal of Asia’ pitfall imaginable – everyone speaking ‘Engrish’, exotic mystique, ninjas/samurai everywhere, forbidden gaijin romance, cherry blossom, western warrior, kanji writing, tradition, tradition, tradition… Because of this – and given the foul reviews this received – I was expecting something woeful, but this is pleasantly surprising. The visuals are fantastic: it is a touch over-styalised – some parts feel like Sucker Punch set in feudal Japan – but the costumes, textures, sets, CGI backgrounds are all eye-poppingly sumptuous: it’s up there with The Fall’s immaculate design. Story-wise, other than a few swashbuckling & sword fighting action set pieces, this is definitely more of a drama than you expect: the story arcs are all fairly standard until the ‘happy’ ending – a mass samurai suicide instead of a mass criminal hanging – yay! The biggest complaint you hear about this is that it’s nothing like the original story: WTF?! This is a blockbuster movie… and there are so many fictionalized accounts of this tale that there’s a specific entire genre term for it – Chūshingura! The weirdest thing about 47 Ronin is that it plays to two wildly different audiences – it’s half respectful and traditional samurai movie; and half Game of Thrones style middle-earth mayhem (battles, questing, magic & mythology). Overall, it’s an interesting, and beautiful, oddity that could have been great, but is by no means a terrible movie.

Score: 6/10

47 Ronin, Silhouette Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tadanobu Asano, Rinko Kikuchi, Ko Shibasaki, Min Tanaka, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Jin Akanishi, Masayoshi Haneda, Masayuki Deai, Togo Igawa, Gedde Watanabe,

47 Ronin, Set Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tadanobu Asano, Rinko Kikuchi, Ko Shibasaki, Min Tanaka, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Jin Akanishi, Masayoshi Haneda, Masayuki Deai, Togo Igawa, Gedde Watanabe,


JAPANORAMA - Seven Monkey BANNER JAPAN-O-RAMA.jpgGoyokin, 御用金.  Goyōkin, Official Gold, Steel Edge of Revenge Tatsuya Nakadai, Kinnosuke Nakamura, Tetsuro Tanba, Yoko Tsukasa, Ruriko Asaoka, Ben Hiura, Isao Natsuyagi, Hideo GoshaAs part of JAPANORAMA I am inviting fellow movie sites to join in. This one is a double-whammy from Michael over at It Rains… You Get Wet. who has sent over a paragraph review of Samurai / Ronin movie Goyokin (below), and posted a simultaneous look at its oddly intriguing American remake, The Master Gunfighter (1975), on his site: here. You can follow Michael on twitter @le0pard13

Goyokin (御用金 Goyōkin, also called Official Gold or Steel Edge of Revenge) (1969), directed by Hideo Gosha, starts so unexpectedly for what ‘chambara‘ (sword-fighting) genre fans would expect, viewers must think they’re in another movie. Imagine Alfred Hitchcock transporting the whole of Bodega Bay across the Pacific, planting them down onto another seashore town, only to have them discover their old friend, genus Corvus, waiting to finish them off…in Japanese. Make no mistake; this is a samurai flick, one of the best, in fact. The brilliant tyrant filmmaker, Gosha, co-wrote the tale of a samurai wrought by guilt over his unwitting part in a massacre of a small village three years earlier. Now ronin, displaying his skills to earn money, he learns, after an attempt on his life, of a scheme by his old clan to repeat the same crime for more gold (the Goyokin in the title). Determined to stop them, he endures great hardships in an attempt to atone for his earlier mistakes and prevent further bloodshed. While the character Magobei (the great Tatsuya Nakadai) excels at making amends, he only contributes to the latter. In essence, mowing down a boatload of mercenaries, clansmen to stop a wholesale slaughter. Hmm… Clearly, redress only worked one way with the guy expert at chopping fish and those who get in the way with a katana.

JAPANORAMA - Cheng Cheng BANNER JAPAN-O-RAMAThe Twilight SamuraiAs part of JAPANORAMA I am inviting fellow movie sites to join in. This post if from Mike at Screen Kicker Movies, an up-and-coming site full of film reviews and features that are oozing with funny writing and personality, making for easy and entertaining reading. He has chosen to review The Twilight Samurai – full review can be found on his site here. You can also follow Mike on Twitter @Metalmike25

The Twilight Samurai (Tasogare Seibei, たそがれ清兵衛) The movie really isn’t your typical samurai movie. It’s set during peacetime when samurai worked as accountants instead of warriors. Essentially they went from doing the coolest job in the world to the most boring job in the world. This is where we meet Seibei (Hiroyuki Sanada) a samurai/accountant/single parent (what a combo!) who struggles to make ends meet until he is presented with an offer he can’t refuse. Released in 2002 and directed by Yoji Yamada it throws a curve ball at anyone expecting a violent action movie. It tackles something I feel is much more important than the usual motive of revenge – it’s about how normal people survive when life has given them a hard time. It’s very relevant during these recession hit times, more so than when it was released and this gives it an immediacy that stays with the viewer. Combine this with romance, comedy, and some very cute kids, and you have a winner on your hands. All together it’s one of those films that gives you hope in humanity.  Oh and a desire to get a kick-ass samurai sword.

Score: 9/10


Having just booked a trip to Japan for this summer I’ve decided to use  it as the perfect opportunity to watch the huge pile of Japanese movies I’ve been slinging into my cupboard for the past 10 years.

Japan’s culture has always been absolutely fascinating to me, particularly their cinematic output – or at least what we can get our hands on in the West. Many of the Japanese films I’ve seen are easily among the most eclectic I’ve seen when it comes to both style and subject matter, and it’s probably the only country where Yakuza, Ninjas, Robots, Monsters, Samurai and Martial Artists appear to be fairly ‘mainstream’ movies.

For the next 6 months I’ll be consuming and reviewing all of the major genres and themes that have defined Japanese cinema on the world stage: 1950s Samurai Epics, J-Horror of the 2000s, 80s/90s Sci-Fi & Cyberpunk, 4 decades of Yakuza flicks, Monster Movies and some of the most bizarre and unique one-off films the country has to offer. The viewing list is fairly big, but a list as varied as: Branded to Kill, Wild Zero, Zatochi, Babycart (Lone Wolf and Cub), Ghost in the Shell, Akira, Ichi the Killer, Seven Samurai, Tokyo Story, Tetsuo: Iron Man, Tokyo Gore Police, Tokyo Decadence, Lady Snowblood, Godzilla – to name but a few.

I’ll also take a look at how Japan (and East Asia) has been portrayed in Western movies over the years, which hasn’t always been positive; bringing to mind things like the fairly racist stereotypes like Mr Yunioshi from Breakfast at Tiffany’s (played by a caucasian – not uncommon), everyone as a Yakuza (Black Rain), student nerds (almost every high-school film), exotic and erotic females and so on. I can barely think of a single Japanese character in a major Hollywood film that wasn’t nerdy / socially inept / over-disciplined / tech savvy / submissive etc.

As always, I’m happy to take on any film suggestions providing I can get my hands on it easily enough. Also happy to team up with other bloggers, publish some guest reviews, collaborations etc – so please get in touch if you’re interested!

Cheers, and I hope you enjoy it.


Current reading: Battle Royale13 AssassinsSukiyaki Western DjangoGozuThe Machine GirlSurvive Style 5+Tokyo Zombie20th Century BoysHana-BiVersus



Yamada – Way of the Samurai: (AKA The Samurai of Ayothaya): A betrayed Japanese samurai is nursed back to health by Thai villagers, and by fusing the national fighting techniques, becomes a great warrior. This has the hallmarks of a co-production between the two countries; great because it brings together the best / most famous aspects of both cultures, but feels a little back-patting at times. It features some brutal Muay Thai boxing… very realistic, impressive and visceral: they’re real champion Thai boxers. The bigger action set pieces are well-edited, but the CGI swords, blood, and other effects look cheap. In typical Thai style there’s a ‘musical’ feel to the soundtrack and national style of acting – young girl and underplayed love interest are most guilty of hamming it up. Being based on a historical figure, the story’s a little clunky, but the locations, sets and costumes all look great, and are captured well by the director. Yamada may not have the most gripping/original story, or best/most famous cast in the world, but there’s more than enough gorgeous Scenery and brutal Thai fighting skill for the film to fall back on and keep you watching for the duration.

Score: 5/10