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Kinji Fukasaku was one of Japan's most prolific directors - its ironic
that his breakthrough movie in the West was the last one he made before
his death at the age of 73 - that being Battle Royale.During the late
'60's to the mid '70's he made a series of excellent Yakuza gangster
movies then in 1978 turned to the historical epic with fine results.
It is 1624 - Japan after a lengthy civil war which resulted in the Emperor being marginalized and the Shogun running the Government - the current Shogun has died suddenly leaving the succession in doubt - his eldest son Iemestsu should succeed but he is disfigured and stammers - his more handsome younger son Tadanaga has the backing of most of the powerful Lords. Things get complicated very quickly when it becomes apparent that the Shogun was poisoned at the behest of Iemestsu's main supporter Yagyu(Kinnosuka Nakamaru) - Iemestu is as at first appalled by this but as the country get embroiled in the struggle he realises how much he needs Yagyu's support if he is to become Shogun.Meanwhile the Emperor and his courtiers plot behind the scenes to exploit the chaos and return to power.
It is an epic tale with political intrigue,battles,assassination's and some spectacular sword-fights and the question of just how much would you sacrifice to attain power - Yagyu will stop at nothing to install Iemestu and this has appalling consequences for both the country and for him personally but he is willing to commit these - Nakamara is excellent in the role - at first you side with what he is trying to do but at the tragedy unfolds you realize what a monster he is. Sonny Chiba is equally good as his eldest son who bears the brunt of one consequence of his Fathers action and he brings the whole thing to its tragic conclusion with more than a touch of hubris.
It hasn't quite got the epic feel of a Kurosawa but has a much more cynical take on political struggle - highly recommended.
I do not know if this movie was made from the first three episodes of the
"Yagyuu Conspiracy" TV series or the start of the series made out of the
movie, or it was all shot with the idea of the film being a feeder for the
In any case, the movie has the same dynamic cast and excellent story cohesion the series featured (my all-time favorite chanbara series). Production values are high, characters interesting (especially the antagonist, imperial noble Kurasumaru, who is an equally dedicated and loyal servant, just of an opposing side), and the plot far more coherent than many Asian offerings. The fight choreography is dynamic yet plausible, but this is not just a string of fight scenes. The setting is a civil war between two sons of a just-dead shogun, and the movie does not slight the importance of politics and maneuvering the powerful nobles into one's camp. On top of this, the third side of the imperial nobles is trying to use the shogun wannabes to weaken the power of the shogunate and restore actual power to the Emperor. This, rather than the Streetfighter movies, made me a Sonny Chiba fan. When can we get this on DVD with English subtitles? (Personally, I hate most dubbing on films. I can read fast enough for subtitles and I prefer hearing the original actor's delivery.)
Director Kinji Fukasaku is perhaps best known, in his homeland at
least, for his Japanese gangster films, a series with which this movie
shares a number of characteristics. Violence and political intrigue are
themes throughout both Shogun's Samurai and Battles Without Honor and
Humanity, and both feature a lead character who finds his loyalties
challenged by betrayals. Both films also feature a large number of
characters who seem to have little purpose but to die, and since so
little is done to develop them, their deaths have little impact when
they do come. This film has other flaws as well. The makeup, costumes
and sound design are distractingly poor, and the battle scenes were
substandard as well, inferior to other samurai films of earlier years
(Seven Samurai comes to mind).
Sonny Chiba plays the Sonny Chiba character in Shogun's Samurai, the no-nonsense master swordsman who strides through the film, scowling menacingly. What a guy; he even gets to wear an eye patch. If you were expecting to see the legendary Toshiro Mifune, you may be disappointed; his appearance amounts to little more than a cameo, and just when it appears that his character might do something interesting, he disappears for good.
Overall, the strengths of the film are its story, which is infinitely more comprehensible than those gangster films, and the challenges posed to traditional concepts of good and evil. Two brothers are challenging for the throne of their recently departed father, who may have had some help on his way out. Early on, it looks as if we will be faced with a couple of characters who couldn't be more clearly good and evil; after all, the older brother stammers and has a birthmark, the sure sign of a villain. Eventually, however, it becomes clear that in a winner-takes-all struggle for power, there are no heroes and villains, only winners and losers.
After the second Tokugawa Shogun has died unexpectedly but mysteriously, the
is a struggle for succession between two of his sons.
Though the history is bogus, there are plenty of opportunities for Samurai fighting. It is also well written and acted.
Wonderful color, costumes, sets and countryside in widescreen. A grade A production all around.
The Yagyu Conspiracy is an historical saga that take place in Japan on
the 17th century. It is in fact a family tragedy. The story is well
made and the movie is interesting, I even consider to learn some more
on Japan history after watching this film, it may be of a use when
watching samurai movies. I find it very important to learn about the
countries that produce a genera cinema. Except from the story I find
the movie a bit short on action, also the battles are too short and
photograph from wide angle which makes it a bit hard to understand who
are the bad guys and who are the good guys.
Sonny Chiba is doing his usually tough guy acting, and I love him for that, without him this movie would have been another non interesting samurai flick. It is sad that you don't see him as much on this long movie. Unless you are a sonny Chiba fanatic like me, don't buy it Rent it!
I love samurai movies. Really. I love history movies. I love adventure
movies. And I found this movie... 'Shogun's Samurai' I though it was
going to be great. There are great actors here. Etsushi Takahashi, for
example. He was amazing in 'Kill!' and 'Akage'. Hiroyuki Sanada is also
great. So is Sonny Chiba. I don't mention Toshiro Mifune because his
role here is just a cameo.
Well... The movie was barely watchable. There were lots of problems with it. First, there is the story. It is ridiculously complicated but not compelling enough. Many characters appear but they are not developed at all. Hence I didn't care about their deaths at all. You know, it is quite sad, actually. You see somebody dying violently. You know you are supposed to feel sorry about him. But you don't feel anything because this character is a total stranger to you. I felt sorry for not feeling sorry about the characters.
And here is the second problem with this movie - it is filled with pointless death. Many people die. Men get killed. Women get killed. Kids get killed. Why? Nobody knows. I am not afraid of a little violence but this was just pointless. The story would be absolutely the same without so many killings. And since you don't know the characters at all their deaths have absolutely no emotional impact on you. The character's deaths can only disgust you.
The next problem with this movie is the fights. You know, that's what many people are watching samurai films for - sword fighting and action. But... Some of the fights are really nicely choreographed, there are some incredible moves and so on. But... Most of the fights are actually quite messy due to the bad camera work. The camera is shaking constantly and you can't see anything. It is not like Paul Greengrass directed the movie but still it isn't what one would expect from a samurai movie.
The camera work is a bit strange in my opinion. Sometimes you may see amazing landscapes. There are some very nice shots. Yet when it comes to fighting or some dynamic scene you can barely see anything. Yes, it is a problem. A big problem.
On the other hand there is the acting. It is excellent. Really. A few of the characters are actually well developed and you can care about them. It is mostly because of the actors. They did a really good job with what they are given.
But that's not enough because they are not given much. 5/10. And I really wanted to like the movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Kinji Fukusaku's conspiracy thriller is a rousing entertainment, but its entire premise is a piece of fiction. The second Tokugawa Shogun, Hidetada, retired in 1623 in favor of his second son Iemitsu. Hidetada lived 9 more years in peaceful retirement, following a precedent set centuries earlier by Emporers (back in the days when Emperors, not Generals, ruled the country). Iemitsu's brother Tadanaga was briefly a rival for the position of Shogun, during 1633, but Iemitsu was very far from being a transient, inconsequential placeholder. He ruled until 1651, and took three steps which largely defined public policy for the rest of the Tokugawa era. He violently suppressed Catholicism, using mass crucifixions in his suppression of the Shimabara Rebelion. He closed the country in 1641 to all foreign influence and trade except for a small Dutch trading station in Nagasaki. Finally, he required each of his major vassals (the daimyo)to spend alternate periods of six months in Edo and six months in their home provinces. Beyond the opportunity for surveillance, this system forced the daimyo into ruinous conspicuous consumption and prevented effective challenges to the Shogun for 200 years. This film comes from an age when female warriors had become a commonplace, but well before spurting blood was acceptable. From his tame cameo appearance, you would hardly guess that Toshiro Mifune had more than 50 films ahead of him. The juicy action roles go to Sonny Chiba and Tetsuro Tamba as rival champions of closely related schools of swordsmanship.
This is a movie I have wanted to see for a long time. It is interesting and different. The story is really historically inaccurate, but for the sake of movies, it was exciting. This story is mainly about Jubei Yagyu, my favorite samurai. It shows him as he was, the black sheep of the Yagyu clan, but despite it, he still came to his family's aid providing the assistance they needed in the form of his most beloved people, the Negoro. While the story barely features Jubei, the entirety of the story is decided by him when the greed of his family becomes too much. Although some of the acting is a bit cheesie on Sonny Chiba's part, only when he is sad, this is a very good movie. For any of you samurai fans, I recommend this with the utmost care. For those of you who do not understand how to appreciate this movie, I am not so sure you'd enjoy it.
This movie is centered around two brothers who, unbeknownst to them,
are about to go to war with each other over the title of Shogun (Leader
of the Samurai).
The older brother, Prince Iemitsu, should be heir to the throne by law and tradition, but he was born ugly (a large mark on his face) as well as his problem with stuttering.
The younger brother, Prince Tadanaga, seems more fit for the role as shogun he was even backed by his mother and father, before his untimely death, as well as government officials.
Soon a war will rage between these two brothers both recruiting not only government officials but master less samurai anybody who is looking for one last fight.
While the government could have put a stop to it they choose to let the brother's decide.
This movie has great action, music, as well as a more "serious" martial art movie there isn't so much of the crazy ninja flipping and such, but don't worry their is still some! Sonny Chiba plays the role of Jubei, a great swordsmen and samurai and he really gives it his all not just in the fighting, but the acting aspect as well.
I give this movie a 9/10 I have to admit they kind of made it hard to follow but it's nothing you can't solve by taking a moment to remember the faces.
I wanted to like this one a lot more than I did. Unfortunately there
just wasn't enough memorable stuff in it. Not because it is not a good
production, but because so many things happen involving lots and lots
of characters, it becomes a struggle to follow the plot. I mean, you
can follow it, but the wide scope causes the characters to bleed
together. Only a few of them really stand out, the notable one being
Yagyu Jubei -- Sonny Chiba's one-eyed ninja "character". Although he
isn't the focus of the movie, he is the protagonist to be identified
with and he ties all the social groups together.
Still, I didn't really like Yagyu Jubei. Sure, he's badass and all that, but what an unrealistic character! I just didn't care about him at all. He was like an anime character; he's some overly idealized manifestation of handsome bravado which borders on homo-erotic infatuation. Hahaha! But then again, isn't that why we like Michaelangelo's David so much? Hrmm....
Don't get me wrong, the movie is worth watching. It has some good (albeit fictional) plot twists and a few memorable characters who are rather unique (such as the dainty, foppish castle magistrate or the kids from the ninja village). There are some crucial fight scenes with ninjas, and we even get to see that legendary Japan Action Club fighting babe, Etsuko Shihomi before she dropped off the map! I've never seen the series this was related to (also featuring Sonny Chiba playing Jubei) but an extended TV format would work much better at developing the characters and plot twists. This movie is already pretty long, but it still feels scrunched together. It's like trying to make a crazy Sopranos-type show into a full-length movie. Not gonna work out too smoothly!
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