'Blade of the Immortal' - Movie Review

Takashi Miike is a Japanese director who gained notoriety many years ago for his extremely bizarre and often very violent and grotesque videos. I've often wondered how his cult following has felt about his gradual drift toward the mainstream ... or perhaps it's that the mainstream has widened enough to include his recent only slightly less violent and grotesque works. Although I have to admit that over the years, his stuff has become more dramatically interesting - better acted, better plots. The trailer claimed this was Miike's 100th movie: with shorts and TV specials and everything else he's made over the years, that kind of counting is dubious. But it's pretty close.

"Blade of the Immortal" is based on a graphic novel: our main character Manji (Takuya Kimura) is an involuntarily immortal samurai with a conscience who gets roped into defending a young girl whose parents were brutally killed before her eyes (remember, this is Miike). He gets sliced and diced and reassembles himself and strange stories are told as they pursue an uneven quest for revenge.

Like the other recent Miike movies I've seen, this one is well constructed. It's also typically violent, bizarre, and nasty. I remained interested through most of the movie, although some scenes were a bit long (the movie as a whole runs to 141 minutes). The critics loved it: 85% on Rotten Tomatoes. Not the highest score, but those that gave it a positive score really loved it. And I'm not getting that - it's over-the-top, ridiculous, and mostly entertaining, but they seem to be making it out to be some kind of masterwork, which it's not.

For fans of martial arts movies, don't go watching this one for the fights. There are many, many fights. And many bloody puncturings and dismemberments. But the fights are chaotic and shot in a choppy manner meant to emphasize the bloodshed and violence, not the fighting style.