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Blade of the Immortal Review

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Blade of the Immortal

So the other night I spotted this film playing at the New Parkway here in Oakland and stopped immediately to watch it.  When I founded our t-shirt selling website the reason I named it NerdKungFu.com was because I am a huge nerd (obviously) and as a kid I used to watch 6-10 hours of Kung Fu theater every weekend.  I have always loved martial arts movies be it Bruce Lee, Wu Tang, Shaw Brothers, or any of the old badly dubbed films (BTW Kung Fu films are the only foreign films that are better dubbed than sub titled.  I don't know why but it's true).

For those not familiar the great Takashi Miike is a Japanese filmmaker who does a wide range of film types but in my opinion his martial arts films are the best and in that genre he is best known for 13 Assassins.  He does very Japanese culture films with a lot of gritty Yakuza crime films that almost always boil down to one lone hero fighting with excellent martial arts against the bad guys.  

So Blade of the Immortal tells the tale of Manji, a ronin Samurai warrior cursed with immortal life by magic blood worms by a witch after her fails to save the life his young ward, the crazed wife of a friend he had to kill.  This is done at the beginning of the film with an insane fight scene between Manji and a huge crowd of bounty hunters.  Skip forward 50 years and now Anotsu Kagehisa, ambitious young leader of a new martial arts school, is running around killing off other martial arts masters in order to unify all Edo schools under one standard.  He kills the father of Rin Asano and his henchmen kidnap her mother for nefarious purposes.

Rin is left to wander alone looking for the resources to get revenge.  She is found by the witch who tells her of an immortal warrior who can help her.  Rin finds Manji who is shocked by her resemblance to Machi, the ward whom he failed the day he was cursed.  

Rin eventually convinces Manji to help her and they embark on a journey of revenge, taking out Anotsu's colorful students one by one.  Meanwhile Anotsu is trying to get his school to be the official trainer of the Shogun but is betrayed and outlawed.  As in all good martial arts film it all comes down to a huge fight between Manji, Anotsu, and Rin and about 500 soldiers of the Shogun.

If you are a fan of martial arts films you will, like I did, love this movie.  On the other hand if your movie taste is more Western and for you action films mean Dwayne Johnson or Tom Cruise you will probably hate it.  It is definitely not a Western Hollywood film and makes no apology for that.  Some of the expository scenes can drag a little and to be honest I found the makeup scarring on Manji's face more than a little distracting.  However the action was amazing, the visuals great, and if you understand that in Asian cultures martial arts masters are the comic book superheroes of the East than even the magical powers won't bug you.  This guy is no more unbelievable than Wolverine and in a weird way more appealing with a great backstory.  You will have to look to find it but if it's playing at your local art theater get out to see Blade of the Immortal.  You will have fun.  4.5 out of 5 blood packs in the mouth.  


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