Blade of the Immortal Review

Blade of the Immortal

When I went to see the first of Tarantino’s Kill Bill films at the cinema, I confess that I was somewhat disappointed. Actually, that’s probably too strong a word, so let’s just say I was ‘bemused’.

Tarantino had patched together a seemingly enjoyable collage of his own greatest influences, including martial arts movies from the seventies. These were the bits which were most jarring for me. I guess I just wasn’t a fan of the wirework and extended swordfights.

Which is why I didn’t know what to expect from the latest film by the ever-interesting Takashi Miike, Blade of the Immortal, out in cinemas this week.

The plot will be an interesting one to try to explain, so let’s just jump right in.

Manji (Takuya Kimura) is a Samurai who, for various reasons, is on the run with a young woman named Machi under his wing. It all ends in tragedy when the pair fall foul of a sizeable group of Ronin who have been looking for them.

Manji nearly dies himself, when an ancient woman named Yaobikuni steps in and plants some sacred blood worms into Manji’s body which give him regenerative powers.

And this is all in the first ten minutes or so.

Jump forward fifty two years, and a young girl named Rin (Hana Sugisaki) witnesses her father murdered by a group of warriors who call themselves the Itto-Ryu. The Itto-Ryu are targeting martial arts schools across Japan and killing anyone who will not join them.

Grief-stricken, Rin seeks out Manji to aid her in her in avenging her father. Manji, now living alone on the outskirts of town, has not aged a day and is immortal, thanks to the good old sacred blood worms.

Reluctant to get involved at first, the similarity between Machi and Rin strikes a chord with Manji and he agrees to help.

Together, the pair embark on an epic quest for revenge across Japan in which colourful foes are violently encountered and gallons of blood are veritably spilled.

In short, it’s like a more carnage-tastic version of Luc Besson’s Leon. Only with Samurai swords and sacred blood worms.

Awesome right?

Awesome indeed. Miike’s film, in Spinal Tap terms, cranks it up to eleven in the first battle scene and manages to somehow raise the stakes higher and higher from there.

The plot admittedly some bizarre turns at times, as characters are randomly introduced, given a backstory and promptly dispatched, and some story threads are left dangling.

At two and half hours, film could also easily lose a good twenty to thirty minutes of its running time.

But for the most part, the combination of imaginative visuals and action choreography is a treat and will impress even those uninitiated into martial arts films. Like myself.

The level of relentless blood-letting should rightly deter the squeamish, but if you have the stomach and the stamina, this is worth your time.

Conor Brennan

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