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The year is 1860 and Japanese society is very unstable. A time when the 300-year rule of the Shogunate was drawing to a close, an event which would simultaneously bring Imperialism to Japan and cause the death of the Samurai age. This is the setting of Samurai Assassin, a highly complicated and character-driven chambara film that is shot in brilliant black and white. It also features one of Toshiro Mifune’s best performances, as well as an astounding ending battle sequence that’s just too cool for words.
Mifune plays Niiro Tsuruchiyo, a master-less samurai who joins forces with the multiple clans against the Lord of Hikone, Naosuke Ii. Ii is the strong man of the Shogunate and brought upon himself the wrath of the Satsuma, Mito, and Choshuu provinces after making an unpopular choice for the appointment of the 14th Shogun. Many critics arose after the controversial appointment, and Ii initiated the Ansei Purge to quiet critics of his choices. This in turn, lead to an assassination plot hatched by the three provinces in order to remove Ii from his position of power. Here enters Mifune, who wants to help the clans, in order to become a samurai of the Mito house. If that’s not enough, the clans have their own problems too trying to weed Ii’s spies out of the plot. Which results in a film full of intrigue, espionage, underhanded dealings, and of course assassinations. If all this sounds complicated… that’s because it is.
Looking past the intricate plot of Samurai Assassin, and the film is basically a detailed character study of Mifune’s Niiro. Much of the film deals with his mysterious past and is told through flashbacks, both as first hand accounts and through investigative processes headed by the clan who is trying to distinguish the followers from the spies. This serves as both a negative and a positive for Assassin. While it helps develop Mifune’s character (and he’s excellent as always), it also slows the film to a tedious pace. Also hidden in Niiro’s past is a long story of forbidden love. The film’s first hour concerns itself mostly with these issues, while the second half slowly builds to an incredibly brutal finale.
Bottom line – Samurai Assassin takes its time to get where it’s going, but when it arrives at its destination it redeems the films minor shortcomings. The finale is a brutal scene filmed in swirling clouds of snow and features an dizzying, blood soaked, action packed conclusion sure to satisfy any chambara fan.
1.27GB | 1:56:50 | 704×304 | avi