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Satisfying chambara action with tongue firmly in cheek
Both the strength and the major weakness of Kiru! is that it refuses to take itself too serious. Although there are some notable moments where Okamoto goes for the dramatic angle (the squad leader whose wife works in the brothel facing off with Tatsuya Nakadai's character for one) and does it well, he keeps sabotaging his own movie. In that aspect, Kiru is definitely not a formal jidai-geki but more of a light-hearted samurai action film.
Kihachi Okamoto might not be well known outside chambara circles, but he's one of the best in the genre and definitely at the top of his game directing action. Fresh from the devastating Sword of Doom (his magnum opus and one of Japanese cinema's finest moments), he brings a fresh, wild approach to his action. Less stylized and formal but more energetic. In terms of samurai cinema, the movie opens in a rundown little village and with the dust and winds blowing the whole setup is eerily reminiscent of Yojimbo setting. The plot is a crossover of sorts between Kurosawa's Sanjuro movies and the themes Eiichi Kudo explored in his Samurai Revolution trilogy (samurais ambushing and assassinating a daimyo for the honour of their clan etc). It may seem a bit convoluted and off-putting to the uninitiated, but that's typical in films of this kind.
With regards to the comedy angle, while Kiru is a light-hearted fare, it's definitely not laugh-out-loud funny. A lot is lost in the translation I guess, but sometimes the comedic timing of Tatsuya Nakadai as the cunning, sly yakuza (a welcome change from the tortured soul characters he played in the 60's) and Etsushi Takahashi as the overzealous farmer with samurai ambitions shine through.
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