Crazy Samurai Musashi, 77 minutes, 588 kills, 1 shot. Do you really need to know anything else? OK, how about that it’s the third collaboration between star Tak Sakaguchi and director Yûji Shimomura after Death Trance and Re-Born? Or that it was written by Sion Sono (Suicide Club, Tokyo Vampire Hotel)?
Not that that last credit should be given too much weight. There is literally almost no plot or story. Legendary samurai Musashi (Tak Sakaguchi, Versus, Battlefield Baseball) is scheduled to fight a duel with the head of the Yoshioka clan, Since the head of the clan is a nine-year-old they’ve brought in hundreds of reinforcements. In the first few minutes, Musashi kills the boy and the battle begins. From there on, apart from a brief epilogue, there is no plot and little dialogue.
Crazy Samurai Musashi was actually shot several years ago and for some reason sat on a shelf until now. That hurt the film because these kinds of long takes have become more common over the years. Shin’ichirô Ueda’s One Cut of the Dead even features a 40-minute take built around the filming of a 40-minute take. And of course, 1917 which is comprised of several long takes edited together.
Since it doesn’t have novelty on its side, Crazy Samurai Musashi has to impress with its content. And it does. Don’t expect wall to wall Shogun Assassin style butchery. There’s actually very little gore, and unfortunately, it’s mostly CGI blood.
What is impressive is the way the sequence and its hoards of fights were staged. Obviously with the kind of fatigue Sakaguchi would be experiencing, intricate, elaborate set pieces were out of the question. So we get loads of short, quick confrontations as he battles wave after wave of attackers. The script does allow him the occasional brief respite, but almost the entire time. whether running or fighting, he’s in motion.
While a part of me missed the elaborate swordplay, the lack of it actually helps the film. Musashi is portrayed as an incredibly skilled fighter facing equally incredible odds. It’s a welcome change from the usual superhuman killing machine inflicting video game style carnage on an army of enemies. It also helps avoid the kind of numbness endless high-powered but plotless fight scenes can cause. If you’ve seen Redcon-1 for example, you know just what I mean.
While it does occasionally get repetitious Crazy Samurai Musashi is an entertaining piece of action cinema. For those wanting some elaborate butchery, the battle during the epilogue makes a nice payoff.
Crazy Samurai Musashi makes its Canadian debut as part of this year’s Fantasia Film Festival.