Tatsuya Nakadai plays a samurai overcome with guilt over his unwitting part in a massacre of a small village. Now a ronin, he learns of a scheme by his old clan to repeat the same crime. determined to stop them, he endures great hardships in an attempt to atone for his earlier mistakes. Written by
From the truly creepy opening to the climax, this movie holds your attention, both with its cinematography and (more preciously) a gripping and coherent storyline.
Excellent filming techniques in this film hold your attention, when the suspense (yes! actual suspense!) doesn't. The acting (by Nakadai Tatsuya, one of Japan's greatest actors -- far better than Mifune Toshiro, IMHO) is top notch. Finally, the violence (though there's plenty) never degenerates into splatter. The violence appears much more disturbing (intentionally so) and much less titillating than in many "chambara" movies.
Also noteworthy, this movie plays on the "loyalty vs. morality" theme that Gosha seems so fond of hammering. In this particular movie, however, he really pulls it off with some intelligence. Though I'm a big fan of Gosha, I have to admit that not everything he touches turns to "gold" (Get it? You will...).
Even so, if you're going to sample from the "chambara" genre, this is among the best (my other nominee would be "Hitokiri/Tenchu" (1969). Frankly, I think it's among the best Japanese films, period.
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