Film: Samurai Warrior
UK Release date: 27th February 2012
Director: Kenichiro Nishiumi
Starring: Yuma Ishigaki, Suzunsuke
Running time: 70 mins
Reviewer: Adam Wing
It’s that time of the month again. Don’t panic though; Seiji Chiba has nothing to do with this latest samurai offering, though perhaps on the surface, you’ll be forgiven for thinking he has. It’s the latest in a long line of action movies released by MVM, known for mercilessly short running times and occasional moments of grandeur. Thankfully though, Samurai Warrior has a little more to offer than cave dwellings, tiresome exposition and low production values. Samurai Warrior is a coming of age drama, a love story and an action movie rolled into one – though that might be stretching it a little. It’s the latest release from maverick director Kenichiro Nishiumi - who has worked alongside the legend that is Takashi Miike - starring Yuma Ishigaki (13 Assassins) & Suzunosuke (Suicide Club).
Three friends masquerade as Samurai warriors and hold the peace in Kinugasa Village despite daily battles with likeminded villagers and rogue bandits. They use wooden swords and long to lose their virginities, but when it comes to living life they still have a lot to learn. Ryu is the son of a farmer and dreams of becoming a samurai warrior to make a name for himself. His mother isn’t so keen on the idea; it was the same dream that led to his father’s death, leaving her to raise her wayward son on her own. He ignores his agricultural chores and trains himself in the art of swordsmanship instead. Ryu believes that by exchanging his wooden sword for a real one, he will one day become a man.
With his friends, he takes down the rival gangs and crosses them off his list, but one foe stands between him and adulthood. Jojima has genuine experience in the art of war, and in order to reign supreme, Ryu knows he must defeat him. Wooden swords wont work on Jojima, his glimmering blade has taken down many a startled foe, which means life just got very real indeed. Of course, proving himself on the battlefield is one thing, proving himself in the art of love is a far more dangerous endeavour. One day he discovers Oman in excruciating pain, after being bitten by a poisonous pit viper. She asks for his assistance and he’s only too happy to help, not only does he get to suck the poison from her leg, but he sneaks a crafty look up her dress as well. From this moment on Ryu is smitten, and what with love, growing pains and clashing swords, Samurai Warrior sure has a lot of ground to cover in 65 light hearted minutes.
Seiji Chiba could certainly learn a thing or two from Kenichiro Nishiumi. The action sequences aren’t quite as polished, but his story is tighter and the characters are far more engaging. It’s light, frothy fun for the most part, with the three leads bouncing off each other in an enjoyable manner. Samurai Warrior will never be considered groundbreaking cinema, but for short, sweet, undemanding Sunday afternoon TV, it just about makes its mark. Larger in scope than your average Seiji Chiba picture, who often hints at a bigger picture but rarely shows it, Samurai Warrior has a little more substance and a lot more heart. Performances are stronger than you might expect and Kenichiro Nishiumi could in future prove himself to be more than just a one trick pony - Seiji Chiba take note.
Samurai Warrior undoubtedly fails to set the world on fire, but considering this is the latest low budget offering from MVM - keeping the shelves warm until Crows Zero arrives in April - it certainly has more to offer than what we’ve seen in the past. Short, a little bit sweet and not at all insulting, Samurai Warrior will just about do for now.