Posted in Fantasia 2017, Fantasia International Film Festival, Film Festivals, Reviews

Blade of the Immortal @ Fantasia 2017

BladeOfTheImmortalBlade of the Immortal / 無限の住人 / Mugen no jūnin (2017)
Directed by: Takashi Miike
Written by: Tetsuya Oishi
Cast: Takuya Kimura, Hanna Sugisaki, Sota Fukushi, Ebizo Ichikawa, Erika Toda

Review: This jidaigeki film was a last minute addition to the festival but what an addition it was being the director’s 100th film. As a result the theater was packed with his enthusiastic fans. It’s an adaptation of the hugely popular manga of the same name. Manji (Takuya Kimura, ex-leader of the recently disbanded boy band SMAP) is a samurai cursed with immortality after killing a hundred men. Fifty years later a young girl named Rin (Hann Sugisaki) seeks out Manji. She wants to hire him to avenge the death of her parents at the hands of Anotsu Kagehisa (Sota Fukushi) and his fellow master fighters.

The movie begins in black and white showing Manji’s past and how he became immortal at which point the movie turns to full color. After this it shifts to the present and the story wastes no time getting to the fights. The first few occur really abruptly with little to no transition or buildup. Most of these early villains feel disposable until Makie (Erika Toda) is introduced. She exudes great flare and deadly skills. The pacing seems to improve with her appearance and the relationship between Manji & Rin also becomes more interesting at this point. Neither character on their own is really interesting and neither really changes much over time but their interaction becomes engaging and even amusing at times. The big brother jokes work nicely.

The action is quite graphic and brutal although not as much as it could’ve been as some of the more potentially gruesome wounds are hidden or out of frame. The camera work is okay but does more to obscure what’s going on more often than not. Rarely will you really be able to follow what is going on in fights but despite this, the action remains visceral and doesn’t lose any of its impact. You’ll still wince at all the slicing, stabbing and limbs flying off. The various weapons are pretty creative. Some fights devolve into the fighters taking turns slashing each other or just slashing at mobs of fighters. Overall, the action is not super impressive (mainly due to the camera work and lots of scene cuts) but it is adequate with some good moments among the average ones.

The simple story does its job but I do wonder if the manga goes a bit deeper into the nature of immortality, which this film only skims with one particular opponent that Manji fights. I wouldn’t say this movie is just one long killing spree but it does feel like that at times. While no individual part is exceptionally noteworthy, the movie ends up being greater than the sum of its parts, which get dismembered in all sorts of gruesome ways as it progresses to a satisfying finale. Ultimately, I did end up caring about the relationship between Manji and Rin. It’s literally death to anyone who tries to destroy it.

Seen in the theater at Fantasia film festival.

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Author:

Longtime fan of East Asian films. Former "movie reporter" on the music radio show / podcast "Beats From The East" broadcasted on Concordia University's CJLO 1690AM radio station in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

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