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  Crazy Samurai: 400 vs 1 Take You All On
Year: 2020
Director: Yuji Shimomura
Stars: Tak Sakaguchi, Kento Yamazaki, Yosuke Saito, Ben Hiura, Arata Yamanaka, Fuka Hara, Kosei Kimura, Nobu Morimoto, Akihiko Sai, Masaaki Takarai
Genre: Action, HistoricalBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Musashi Miyamoto (Tak Sakaguchi) is a legendary samurai swordsman in Japan, and he has been assigned to assassinate a young clan leader, just a little boy really, to prevent his people gaining the upper hand in the region. However, there are bodyguards aplenty hidden in the surrounding forests to ensure Musashi does not succeed in this scheme, poised and waiting to execute him the second he makes an appearance anywhere near the boy. Except they do not do a very good job, and as the child is enchanted by a butterfly, the assassin leaps from a tree to cut open the butterfly, the little boy and his elderly guardian, killing them all. Outraged, the bodyguards round on him, beginning an epic battle: one against hundreds.

Yeah, some hero, murdering a little kid, but for some bizarre reason this was how our protagonist was introduced, when having him destroy someone a lot less defenceless might have made for a less ambiguous set of feelings towards this version of Musashi, who after all was a legendary person in the history of the samurai culture in Japan. But all this moral dubiousness was merely a precis to the main course, a seventy-seven-minute unbroken take of absolute carnage as Sakaguchi cut down his multiple adversaries with his trusty blade, and that would likely be what you took away from the film rather than the somewhat unnecessary prologue, which had been shot, like the epilogue, almost ten years after the bulk of the movie was captured, but left in the vault.

A fan-driven crowdfunding campaign got the footage completed, and added such important elements as blood spurts in CGI and the clatter and clash of the swords on the soundtrack, thereby sprucing it up to the polish deemed acceptable, though the star did look noticeably older in the final five minutes than he did during the main setpiece. That huge fight was always going to be either hypnotically fascinating to a certain type of action or martial arts fan, or incredibly boring and repetitive to sit through for many of the others, there did not appear to be any middle ground, as you could appreciate the exhausting feat of stamina that Sakaguchi was going through on the screen without wishing to be there, living every minute with him. Reports had it that he was physically injured during this test of strength, though that was not apparent so much while viewing.

He did, however, look totally shagged out by the conclusion, as well he might. Over and over the extras come at him, the bulk of them for mere seconds before being dispatched with a clonk on the head or a slash to the belly, many making it remarkably easy to get bumped off by the flashing blade by rushing their antagonist. Just as you had misgivings about this evil variation on Musashi from the introduction, he weirdly redeems himself before your eyes with his sheer powers of endurance, and given there's no way the story would have him fail, you have little choice but to be impressed at how he keeps on slicing and dicing anything that is thrown at him. Yes, under the direction of stuntman Yuji Shimomura, it is monotonous, but that monotony breeds a strange fixation on this blue-clad and increasingly grubby and bloody figure as he makes it through the swathes of killers as if in a computer game - he even has power-ups in the shape of water bottles and fresh swords as if he was planning this epic all along. Eventually, quite quickly actually, the spectacle becomes the entire point, and any stray philosophy slipping in, irrelevant. Music by Hidehiro Kawai.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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