A genre-twisting parody of the over-serious Samurai
Zack Davisson | Seattle, WA, USA | 10/30/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"All genres, such as Western, Horror or Science Fiction, eventually become a bit played out, and a parody is needed to poke fun at the cliches and stereotypes, wiping the slate clean and allowing for a re-invention of the genre. It happened with such films as "Scream" and "Blazing Saddles." For the Samurai genre there is "Kill!"
Directed by Okamoto Kihachi ("Sword of Doom," "Zatoichi Vs. Yojimbo," "Samurai Assassin"), "Kill!" (Japanese title "Kiru") is not a blatant comedy, and many fail to see its humor. Like anything that plays with genre, one has to be fairly familiar with the "rules" to understand the jokes that are being made at their expense. There is some visual slapstick, and some very funny scenes (some of the battles are filmed in fast-motion, making the Samurai run around like the Keystone Cops), but most of the humor is far more subtle and black.
The story finds three warriors coming together on a single path. Genta, a roguish wandering Yakuza, seems to know more than he should considering his station. Hanji is a rough-hewn farmer who seeks to increase his lot in life, and tries to pass himself off as a Samurai. Tetsutaro is an idealistic and proper Samurai, who's belief in honor allows him to be manipulated by those less honorable and more crafty. Tetsutaro is being set up to take a fall, as his lord convinces him to assemble a group to assassinate a rival official, and then promptly sells him out once the deed is done. Hanji, a man of immense strength and little talent, is hired as a Samurai by Tetsutaro's lord and then sent to his group, now holed up in a hidden fortress. Into this convoluted politics, Genta feels responsible for the naive Hanji and Tetsutaro, and attempts to play both sides Yojimbo-style in order to bring the fiasco to a close, mocking the Samurai ideals and encouraging happiness instead. Of course, Hanji falls in love with a prostitute who "smells like the Earth" and Tetsutaro's love Chino finds some sparks with Genta.
The cast is top-notch, with Samurai-film champion Nakadai Tatsuya ("Ran," "Yojimbo," "Sword of Doom") playing the good-natured Genta and Takahashi Etsushi ("The Yagyu Clan Conspiracy") as the farmer Hanji. The girls are quite lovely too, with Hoshi Yuriko ("Chushingura," several "Godzilla" flicks) as the stunning Chino. Okamoto Kihachi is a great director, and maximizes his cast and balances the serious nature of some of the scenes with the ridiculous, such as when Hanji lifts the ceiling off a brothel to establish his claim to a girl.
I love Samurai films, and it is nice to see a black parody done so well, while still managing to be an excellent flick in its own right. I would recommend having a few standard films under your belt before you watch "Kill!," or you might not get some of the references. Be even so, it can be appreciated as a straight-forward film with some oddball humor thrown in to boot."
A Fun And Pleasing Samurai Parody!
Ernest Jagger | Culver City, California | 12/31/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The film "Kill," is not one of your usual samurai flicks, therefore, it might not be for everyone. However, I thought it was pretty good, and I certainly liked the parody that the film delivers in this samurai flick. This film was directed by Kihachi Okamoto, who also brought the world the epic samurai film, "Sword of Doom," [which also stars Tatsuya Nakadai]. The film is very dark, and humorous at the same time. I remember first seeing this film with my best friend years ago, and it was a pleasure to finally purchase it and watch it again. I liked it when I first saw it, and many years later, I still enjoyed the film. Only, I liked it more now, as the films dark humor and parody which I did not understand at the time no longer allude me. This humor is infused into the characters. This is what makes the film so different.
Quite frankly, I really laughed hard at the parts where the samurai were running around during the battle scenes, only the film was put into fast forward motion, and what you have is an early 1920s type vignette of a film in which the samurai are intentionally moving at a fast pace. Now that's funny. Especially when you have a film starring (Tatsuya Nakadai) in the starring role. [Who can forget his character in "Sword of Doom?"] The film centers on three warriors. The first one, Genta, (Tatsuya Nakadai) is a wandering yakuza. The second one is Hanji, (Takahashi Etsushi) a farmer who wants to better his lot in life, and poses as a samurai. While the third character is named Tetsutaro, and he is a true samurai.
Tetsutaro is basically being set up by his Lord as the patsy. His lord convinces him that it is necessary to kill a rival lord. He wants Tetsutaro to gather up a group of assassins to kill this rival official. However, things do not go well for him, as he is betrayed by this very same lord after the deed has been accomplished. Genta, good natured as he is feels responsible for the other two friends, Tetsutaro and Hanji, and attempts to play two sides in order to help the other two. [reminiscent of Yojimbo starring Toshiro Mifune]. The film is a very good watch, I would recommend it to anyone who likes samurai films. The film is infused with dark humor, and the film is a very enjoyable watch. I own it, and like the film very much. Highly recommended."
A Playful "Tweaking" of Samurai Conventions with a Spice of
Woopak | Where Dark Asian Knights Dwell | 04/12/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Inspired by Kurosawa's "Yojimbo" and "Sanjuro", director Kihachi Okamoto's (Sword of Doom) "KILL!" (aka. Kiru, 1968) is a pitch-black comedy with an atmosphere and tone that has a lot in common with Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns. The film stars Tatsuya Nakadai (Hara-Kiri) and is another serving of the jidai geki genre that blends dark comedy, amazing swordplay, interesting characters and an involving storyline.
In the province of Joshu, 1833, two men arrive in a dusty windblown town looking for food. One of them is Hanjiro Tabata (Etsushi Takahashi), a farmer who aspires to become a samurai; he sold his land to buy his own samurai swords to gain favor with a local clan lord. Another is Genta (Tatsuya Nakadai), a supposed yakuza member who is also a former samurai haunted by his past. The two bump into a local clan dispute that left a lord dead. The two decide to turn the situation into their own advantage but when they discover the wrongdoings of a nefarious clan chamberlain named Ayuzawa (Shigeru Koyama), they side with a band of rogues who are under siege in a remote mountain.
The film's screenplay is loosely based on the same source material as Kurosawa's "Sanjuro" and it tweaks the samurai convention into something resembling Sergio Leone's Italian westerns. Keep in mind that Leone's work was inspired by Kurosawa's own masterpieces so it just comes to full circle here. The themes are somewhat identical in some spots--a drifter teams up with an unlikely companion that they both find themselves with the common goal of righting the wrongs done in a place; not by choice but by conscience. Okamoto doesn't hold back in expressing some critical views as to the way of the samurai but he doesn't make it a stereotype and stays close to the idea that "the code isn't the problem, but the people who practice it are." The film also has great potential for drama as our characters find themselves in a parallel, with similar means and different motivations. Genta is seeking redemption, Hanjiro wants to attain samurai status and a third character called Jurota (Shin Kishida) is looking for the means to redeem his wife, Yo (beauteous Nami Tamura) from a brothel. "Kill" has that side of human drama that serves to engage its audience with its subplots that appear to be very real and proves a vital part of the film.
The direction by Kihachi Okamoto carefully lays out everything in the film; love, betrayal, blind duty and redemption; but however serious are the film's themes, some of the film's elements feel like a parody of the samurai genre. There are some very obvious nods to other recognized films in the jidai geki genre, and the performances were meant to somewhat exaggerate to come out as intense, and brooding. It is rather curious that the film maintains that light-hearted feel despite some very dark undertones and subtext. Trust me, Okamoto makes it all work, despite its bleak tones, there are some nice doses of humor here. The music is also fitting to express the film's mood, and brings a feel of the "East meets the West" blend that Okamoto had brought to fruition.
There are plenty of swordplay to be had in "Kill". They are well-executed and choreographed; they contain some mild doses of blood and gore as limbs are lopped off and torso`s are stabbed. I like the way the film plays Genta's character as a bumbling opportunist, who becomes later revealed as a master swordsman. Hanjiro is a clumsy oaf, with no skills as a swordsman but he slowly develops his own skills. I was somewhat anticipating a very intense duel near the film's climax, which I was a little disappointed but at the same moment satisfied as to how it resolved Ayuzawa's fate.
The performances by its cast are excellent. Nakadai abandons the brooding, intense samurai that I've been privy to in "Hara-Kiri" and "Sword of Doom". His character has more of a "carefree" feel and obviously more human. I say again that Etsushi Takahashi is a bumbling strong oaf that has that uneasy charisma; "I want a woman who smells like the earth.." I was laughing when he found one. Chino and Yo (Yuriko Hoshi and Nami Tamura respectively) represent the strength and weakness of the Japanese woman during these times. Chino is a privileged lady of the clan while Yo lost all privileges due to misfortune that ended up with her in brothel to make ends meet.
"Kill!" may not be as famous as Kurosawa's films or as riveting as Kobayashi's own view of the samurai legend, but Okamoto's film will no doubt still entertain samurai aficionados. The energetic direction and the engaging plot is enough to satisfy and action junkies have a lot to look forward to. The film does serve up the right ingredients in a samurai film; a good plot, great characters and a lot of swordplay. With Tatsuya Nakadai in the lead, with a great supporting cast, you know you are in for a treat.
Highly Recommended ! [4+ Stars]
You'll never look at Sergio Leone -- or samurai flicks -- th
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 11/26/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Take a piece of Akira Kurosawa, blend in a big portion of Sergio Leone, then add a little of Mel Brooks on Xanax and you'll have an idea of one of the oddest and most amusing examples of chanbara satire. The "sword-fighting movies" from Japan nearly collapsed under the weight of cliches, just as American "gun-fighting" westerns nearly bit the dust in the U.S. Kihachi Okamoto piles on the cliches in this tale taken from the same source material as Sanjuro. While elements of the plot are described, it's not the plot that's too important, but what Okamoto does with it. You might have a hard time afterwards watching some of those popular Italian westerns with a straight face (or even some of Kurosawa's eastern westerns).
Two ragged men, one a former samurai, Genta (Tatsuya Nakadai), who is disillusioned and has become a wandering yakuza, and the other, Hanji (Etsushi Takahashi), a farmer who wants to become a samurai, meet by chance in a dusty, decaying village. The two suddenly find themselves in the midst of corruption, betrayal and assassination. They wind up fighting rival gangs and, sometimes, each other. Along the way we encounter the loving cliches of samurai flicks as well as the loving cliches from Italian westerns...all that running back and forth, noble love, beatings, the really evil villain...as well as pratfalls, a monk who seems to be channeling William Hickey, a flying finger that lands on the ground right in front of the camera and probably the scrawniest chicken ever to have a major role in the movies.
The year is 1833 when Japan's rigid class system was decaying. Tatsuya Nakadai as Genta is marvelous as the quizzical and disillusioned ex-samurai who long ago had enough of the posturing and false honor of his class. He has no intention of being a hero, yet he finds himself against his better judgment being drawn into a clan battle between corruption on one side and naivety on the other. He also is a realist. "Kill or be killed," he says at one point, "either would leave an unpleasant aftertaste." Almost as good is Etsushi Takahashi as Hanji. He may only be a farmer, but Hanji is tired of that back-breaking work. He sold his land and bought a samurai's outfit with the two swords. If he can become a samurai, he knows honor will be close behind. Hanji is energetic and impressed with titles. When the two meet, they make an odd-couple team, even if at a various times Hanji is determined to stick a sword through Genta's chest.
Two-thirds of the way through the movie, however, Okamoto lets the cliches regain their rightful power. The laughs are few and far between as battles are fought between muskets and swords (the swords lose), a good man dies and a fight to the death takes place between Genta and an evil usurper. We're left with the carnage of dead samurai, caused by betrayal and suspicion..and with Genta's comment to Hanji, "Now do you understand what samurai are like?"
Wait, there's more. This is a satire, after all. Our last view is of the two men, one a realist and the other now also a realist, leaving the village. They're followed by the admiring young women of the town's one pleasure house, all determined to journey with them. That leaves the scrawny chicken, strutting around and pecking in the dust, unimpressed with all that has just occurred.
This Criterion DVD is part of the Rebel Samurai four-movie set. It can be bought separately. There are no extras to speak of except for an overblown written essay on the movie that comes in the case."