Out of work samurai Hanshiro (Ichikawa) appears at the House of Li with a request to be allowed to commit Seppuku in the noble house's courtyard. Li's lieutenant, Kageyu (Yakusho), though, has suspicions over his true motives. But what is the real truth behind it?
Given his manic work rate, it’s too early to say if Takashi Miike’s new classical direction is reinvention or whim, but his personality seems to be fading with it. Case in point: this subdued remake of Kobayashi’s imposing classic, staged with such ritualistic awe it even concedes to a lookalike cast. The story still wields a fierce power — through a slow-drip of flashbacks, a destitute samurai reveals his cause for revenge on a corrupt, sadistic lord. While Kobayashi’s film trembled with anti-establishment fury, it’s less clear what Miike has to offer other than luxuriating in the tale’s more wretched elements. True, there’s a pulsing final showdown, but a mid-act of mercilessly laboured tragedy turns into an inert endurance. As for the tastefully muted 3D... well, the subtitles really punch.
If Miike's re-tune of Masaki Kobayashi's bleak samurai tale is a surprisingly subdued affair, aficionados will still find enough sword-based shenanigans to keep them engrossed.
Reviewed by Simon Crook