Based on the manga series of the same name. The series is set in Japan during the mid-Tokugawa Shogunate period and follows the cursed samurai Manji, who has to kill 1000 evil men in order to regain his mortality.
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The production values and overall tone of Takashi Miike's hundredth film vary wildly from scene to scene, and - shockingly - the action sequences just...aren't very good. Miike took the opportunity to cast several Japanese genre luminaries, so it's no surprise performances here are excellent across the board; but the film is about twice as long as it needs to be, and feels so slick it lacks the wildcard Miike touch.
If all that over-the-shoulderesque riding and looking and wandering around kept putting me in mind of playing Shenmue while I watched Kaili Blues last week, the massively multi-opponent hand-to-horde combat scenes that bookend Blade of the Immortal cast me back to the old Dynasty Warrior games, foaming over with endless waves of berserking expendables. Not a very illuminating observation, but an uncanny regression.
Takashi Miike's 100th outing as a director is a sublime creation melding his take on the traditional samurai film with the gonzo hybrid of genres his past oeuvre has contained but with restraint and care. Meticulous in its construction this is Mikke at his best surpassing both '13 Assassins' and 'Hara-Kiri'; his previous attempts at traditional samurai film. Well cast with Takuya Kimura impressing in the lead.
Exquisite, almost sculptural, each frame betraying incredible fastidiousness, it is striking the we now find ourselves in 2017 bearing witness to Takashi Miike, creator of white elephant art. BLADE does for the samurai film what John Huston did when he gussied-up the bargain basement noir w/ THE ASPHALT JUNGLE. I would like to issue a prophecy: many years from now 13 ASSASSINS and BLADE will be considered classics.
Smoke of blood billowing, million of body bursting, vermillion of blade breeding, new brood of Miike however never accomplished the honor of bloody annihilation, interweaved with bloody heavy-handed drama, which makes me wish there were blades only.
The fights are uninspired, no-frills affairs (despite their sizeable magnitude), and the plot is way too loose to justify the runtime, but the two lead characters make this worth watching: the adorably grumpy, world-weary Manji with his iconic look, and "pain in the ass" Rin, whose fierce devotion to justice and fairness often comes at the expense of her own safety. Miike "the director" kinda gets buried here.
Miike's 100th is a classical-goes-zany mix of over the top manga and elegant samurai fictions. As cool as it is to kill hundreds and hundreds of henchmen on the screen, it's still overlong and even a bit boring at times for my tastes. I wish there was more of the El Topo-like "way of the warrior" mumbojumbo as seen in the first 45 minutes. "13 Assassins" remains Miike's crown.
3.4. As with a lot of his big budget movies, the violence is glossy and pretty sanitised. Takuya Kimura is loveable as the immortal grump and I'm constantly impressed with Hana Sugisaki. Fun stuff but Miike can direct this sort of thing in his sleep.