Takashi Miike/Japan/2017/140 mins
At Filmhouse Cinema from Fri 1 Dec 2017
Returning with his 100th movie, Japanese auteur Takashi Miike shows no sign of losing his touch, once again proving to be one of the most inventive and prolific directors of this era. Based on Hiroaki Samura’s manga series, Blade of the Immortal is a blood-drenched samurai epic, akin to Miike’s most commercial film 13 Assassins, but with a touch of his more unhinged, looser work such as Ichi the Killer and Gozu.
The film tells the story of Manji (Tayuka Kimura) who is cursed with immortality after seeking vengeance for the death of his sister, Machi (Hana Sugisaki). 50 years later and still haunted from the loss, he comes across Rin (also played by Sugisaki) and agrees to help her in exacting revenge on the men who murdered her father.
What follows is a series of exhilarating action sequences executed expertly with such visual flare, leading to a gloriously visceral final epic battle with an incredibly large body count. As always with Miike, the characters are typically outlandish with some stellar acting – most notably from Kimura, who dryly delivers his lines with deadpan perfection.
Because the film isn’t as tightly paced as 13 Assassins – and running at 140 minutes, it probably overstays its welcome – it can at times feel slightly repetitive with its dizzying number of fight scenes. However, it also contains a lot of compassion towards the characters, with the lines between good and bad becoming extremely blurred as the film progresses.
With a dose of classic Westerns such as True Grit and Unforgiven mixed with the work of Eiichi Kudo, Blade of the Immortal is a kinetic thrill ride, made with such confidence and panache it’s hard not to give in to its mix of eye popping ultra-violence and madcap absurdity.