The climactic 45-minute battle sequence is a bloody whopper, but there’s more to Takashi Miike’s remake of the 1963 samurai mini-epic of the same name than just graphic carnage. The cast is superb, headed by actor Koji Yakusho (Shall We Dance?
), playing against type as a ferociously loyal samurai dispatched to trap a depraved official of the shogunate (hissable Gorô Inagaki) and his men in a village en route to Edo. Of course Miike doesn’t skimp on the stomach-turning grotesqueries — they’re what made him famous, although this rousing adventure is further evidence that the prolific, genre-sampling Miike (Audition
, Ichi the Killer
, Sukiyaki Western Django
) yearns to make classical, character-filled epics in the Akira Kurosawa mold. Also swinging swords: Tsuyoshi Ihara, Hiroki Matsukata, and Yûsuke Iseya as Koyata the holy fool. Recommended.
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Takashi Miike disembowels the samurai film.