June 30, 2006

The Hidden Blade

Directed by Yôji Yamada Starring Masatoshi Nagase
Reviewed by Martin Tsai
Don't be fooled by the title—Blade isn't the sort of Zatoichi variant it suggests. Rather, it's a revisionist and demystifying samurai saga. In 1861, at the end of the Japanese feudal era, the last samurai are clumsily adapting Western artillery and military formations without the assistance of Tom Cruise. Disgraced since his father's hara-kiri, Katagiri (Masatoshi Nagase of Mystery Train) impetuously rescues his former maid (Takako Matsu) from an abusive marriage, then dutifully abides by the caste system to suppress his affections for her. Meanwhile, he must prove his own innocence by dueling with a school pal accused of treason. Devoid of action until the climactic showdown, Blade is a stately yarn with slow-burn tension and heartwarming romance. But director Yôji Yamada already made the shogun equivalent of Unforgiven with the Oscar-nominated The Twilight Samurai. Though both are adaptations of Shuuhei Fujisawa novels, this follow-up pales slightly in comparison.
Reprinted from Seattle Weekly. © Copyright 2006 Martin Tsai. All rights reserved.