Blade of the Immortal (2017)
We see in black and white a samurai named Manji (Takuya Kimura) fighting and killing a man in a street. He runs into a house, pulls back a blanket in the corner that is hiding a young woman. The young woman, named Machi (Hana Sugisaki), smiles at the samurai and holds up feces from a horse saying, “A rice ball.” The samurai informs Machi what it really is and puts his blade back in its scabbard.
We cut to a river where Manji is washing his hands while Machi is playing with a pinwheel. As he looks at Machi, Manji suddenly realizes that there is someone behind him. There is a woman, her face cloaked by her coat, sitting on a rock. We learn from her that Manji is a wanted man for killing his leader and six others. We also learn that Manji is feeling guilt about Machi, that the guilt he feels is because one of the men he killed was her husband. Manji replies to the woman “I wanted to cut open my stomach like a samurai should, but if I did that, she’d be left to die in the dirt.”
Manji notices Machi is no longer by the river, and he looks up as she is running over the bridge above Manji. Manji takes off after her only to discover that she has been taken hostage by a group of Samurai that have come to kill Manji and collect the reward for his death. Manji drops his swords in exchange for the Samurai letting Machi go, but as she passes the chief samurai running towards Manji, he kills her with a sword in the back. A large group of samurai attacks Manji as he vows to kill them all.
Manji fights valiantly, killing many as he tries and fights his way toward the main samurai who sits in the back mocking Manji. In the process of fighting, he loses both an eye and a hand, but is able to continue, wanting to avenge Machi’s death. His wounds are killing him, but he defeats everyone except the samurai leader, who has been waiting to fight Manji. Manji defeats the leader but his loss of blood gets the better of him, and he drags himself to the lifeless body of Machi, stroking her hair then collapsing beside her, getting ready to take his last breaths on earth. The woman by the river appears out of nowhere, and Manji begs for her to finish him off. The woman takes out a knife and instead off killing Manji, she takes the blade and opens his chest. She pulls out a bag, full of sacred blood-worms and places them inside Manji’s chest. She tells him that they will live inside him and repair and wounds that he receives. As the screen goes from black and white to color, we see Manji’s hand reattach itself to his arm with the help of the blood-worms. Manji now is immortal, which will mean that he will have to live with the guilt of what he has done forever.
Blade of the Immortal is the 100th film of Takashi Miike, a director known for his grisly fight sequences in samurai films such as 13 Assassins (2011) and shocking horror films like Audition (1999). While there are quite a few limbs cut off and blood splattering everywhere, the heart of the film is about the quest for redemption, how revenge becomes overpowering and how to deal with guilt. It’s also about the love that develops between the tough as nails samurai, Manji, and an orphan named Rin (played by Hana Sugisaki in a dual role). Manji has taken under his wing Rin as she seeks revenge on a powerful samurai named Anotsu (Sota Fukushi) because he murdered her mother and father. Rin is determined to get her revenge, wanting Manji to give her lessons on how to kill. The resemblance between Rin and Machi is remarkable, and that clouds Manji’s decision to reluctantly teach her in the samurai arts. Manji discovers on their journey of revenge that he would do anything to protect Rin, vowing never to fail to keep someone he cares about alive.
Takashi Miike, as you would expect, directs the fight sequences with a flourish, as they are full of whirling swords, blood squirting across the battlefield as he always centers Manji in the center of the frame so that we can see the emotion on his face as he battles. The film is vastly aided by the abundance of different weapons that appear in the film, as it seems Manji has an endless supply of swords and knives in his kimono. Takuya is masterful with a sword, and Miike takes advantage of his prowess, making the fight sequences take on an almost dance-like feel to them.
Kimura gives a robust and multifaceted performance as the samurai warrior who is racked with guilt, but despite his best intentions, feels a sense of loyalty and love for the young woman he has vowed to protect. The father/daughter like chemistry between Kimura and Hana Sugisakiis the best aspect of this film. The connection that they have with each other makes their growing relationship seem real. Sugisaki gives a touching performance as first the wife who has been driven mad by Minja’s killing of her husband before her eyes and then as the innocent Rin who wants to get revenge, but not if it means that Minja will be sacrificed to carry it out.
Full of bloody fights, swords flying through the air and an unbelievable body count, Blade of the Immortal is still not your ordinary samurai film; its film filled with heart, where two wounded people find compassion in a world that seems to contain very little of it. My Rating: Full Price
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
The film is playing exclusively at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema.
For more of Mike’s reviews and interviews click here