Reviewed by Rob Sibley
Hara-Kiri: Death of a samurai is Takashi Miike’s remake of Masaki Kobayashi 1962 Samurai classic of the same name. Masaki’s film will always remain one of the best samurai pictures of all time. It changed forever how we percieved Samurai films, what Masaki achieved is very much akin to what Akira Kurasawa achieved when he ventured from gritty Japan Post-nuke Noirs to Samurai films.
So to say I was leery about Miike remaking an utter classic would be an understatement. Takashi Miike has been one of the most exciting voices in Japanese cinema since the 90’s. The mans done everything from Syfy â€œFull Metal Yakuzaâ€ to straight up Yakuza pictures such as the â€œDead or Alive: Trilogyâ€ and Ichi The Killer to more family fare like â€œNinja Kids, Zebraman 1 & 2, Yatterman and The Great Yokai wars.
Over the years Miike’s films have become more mainstream, it seems to have started with â€œAuditionâ€ which is a film that turned many American viewers onto the man. But before Audition and Ichi the killer he was cranking out 4-8 V-Cinema films a year. V-Cinema is the Japanese equivalent to direct to DVD in the US. Only thing is in Japan they don’t frown upon direct to video films like so many of us do.
Now as many of you already know â€œHara-Kiriâ€ aka Seppuku is ancient form of ritual suicide. First stated in the samurai bushido honor code, a samurai rather than accept defeat would plunge a sword into his gut and disembowell himself rather then shame him and his clan. It was also forced at times as a means of capital punishment.
Now that the history lesson is over lets talk Miike’s HK: Death of a Samurai. The films deals with a Ronin (A samurai with no master) Hanshiro Tsugumo, played by the fantastic Ebizo Ichikawa of â€œA Sea without Exitâ€ fame. He’s a family man, raising a daughter and a son that is not his. Soon his daughter is married and has a child. Only problem, the baby has some major health issues and HanshirÃ´ doesn’t know what to do. His step son steps up to the plate and decides to do a very stupid thing for money. This incident leaves the stepson dead and HanshirÃ´ seeking revenge.
From there on out the film is mostly told through flashbacks. Very much in the same style of the original. It’s an enthralling story dealing with timless Samurai themes of honor, revenge, plenty of tragedy and moral enlightement at a very high cost.
For those expecting your typical Miike bloodbath will be disapointed. Slow burn is the name of the game. You get your samurai carnage sure,
but you have to earn it. The film never really becomes slow, something interesting is always going on. Also interesting to note is Miike shot the film in 3D . Sadly the limited release that this film got at the cinema’s was in 2-D and the Blu-ray and DVD are both in 2D. I would of loved to have seen this film as Miike originally intended.
Before I watched this film I kept thinking â€œWhat’s the point? Why remake a classic.â€ remake is a bad word, Miike didn’t pull a Rob Zombie and butcher the original film while attempting to be â€œFreshâ€. Miike pays a lovely omage to the 1962 classic and to the samurai genre in generel. This is a worthy follow up to Miike’s last samurai outing â€œ13 Assassinsâ€. This film is highly reccomended for fans of Miike or Samurai cinema. But if your looking for a blood bath, best just watch a Lone Wolf and Cub film. â€œHara-Kiri Death of a Samuraiâ€