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Seven young samurai kill a corrupt local magistrate on the orders of their clan's chamberlain, Ayuzawa, believing that doing their duty for the honor of their clan. But when they discover that Ayuzawa was only using them, and that now he's set on cleaning house, their only hope my lie with enigmatic drifter Genta and strong bodied, thick headed ex-farmer Tabata. Assuming they don't get killed first. Thus begins Kihachi Okamoto's Kill! Based on the same novel as Kurosawa's Sanjuro, Kill! weaves a tale filled with twists, betrayals, and death that is steeped in the samurai ethos of honor and duty. But this is no brooding drama or tragedy; it's a slick action comedy.
The central story is a compelling one, pitting the courage and youthful idealism of the seven against the callous deceptions of Ayuzawa. These are men who despite their inexperience and naiveté are committed to their cause and fully prepared to die for it if need be. But although they may not be fools or cowards, neither are they hardened warriors, accustomed to a life on the run. When things are down, they fight, they get scared, they make mistakes, but they manage to pull it together. And although I couldn't keep their names strait, each of them have been developed with their own personalities and character traits.
The most interesting character by far though is Genta He's an outsider, a vagrant. He's got no connection to the seven, no reason to get involved. Yet from the moment he meets them commits himself to their cause and repeatedly risks his life to aid them. And believe me, there is no better man to have on your side. In battle, he possesses the power of a raging storm and the grace of a dancer, easily cutting down half a dozen opponents. Even more formidable is his cunning and charisma, which allow him to pit enemies against each other and undermine them from within.
Genta remains something of an enigma for most of the film. We learn early on that he used to be a samurai, and that he had a falling out with his former master. But almost until the end we receive only oblique hints as to what lies in his past, and what motivates his actions now. It's clear however that he holds no regard for his former profession. For him, it's not the title or rank that matters, but the kind of man you are.
His sometimes ally Tabata is the main source of comic relief. His stubbornness, earnestness and all around cluelessness are worth more than a few chuckles, and remind me just a bit of the peasants from The Hidden Fortress. His early fight scenes are among the funniest parts, as he tries his hardest to strike down a foe who nonchalantly comments on his technique while dodging his clumsy blows. I also enjoyed the bit involving the chicken, but the part that evoked the most laughs would have to be the frantic brothel scene, which is not nearly as risqué as it sounds.
Kill! is not only a lot of fun and quite funny, but also surprisingly deep, sometimes poignant, and possesses a clear message about what it truly means to be honorable. It is a credit to its genre, and one hell of an action flick.
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