Against the backdrop of the Edo treasury devaluing currency and driving many into poverty, Hanzo Itami enforces the law without regard to status. He shows inadequate respect to the ... See full summary »
Against the backdrop of the Edo treasury devaluing currency and driving many into poverty, Hanzo Itami enforces the law without regard to status. He shows inadequate respect to the treasurer, who wants him dead. He finds a young woman dead following an abortion, and he enters a temple without permission looking for evidence. He tortures and then sexually assaults the temple's priestess to get information. He's then assigned to protect the mint from a notorious thief. There he closets himself in the bedroom of the mint's mistress. He waits. The thief arrives - but other crimes are afoot. Devalued currency, white slavery, and government corruption lead Hanzo to one conclusion. Written by
The first instalment of the Hanzo trilogy was a decent but oddly muted affair from the usually somewhat terrific Kenji Misumi, its remarkable therefore just how great this second offering is, delivering in fine and stylish fashion on sleaze (especially a mean spanking sequence), violence and gripping plotting, whilst retreading the established trademarks if the Hanzo character with aplomb. Directed by Japanese New Wave master Yasuzo Masumura (best known for the erotic nightmare classic Blind beast), The Snare starts with a bang and keeps up in a fast and furious fashion as Hanzo's pursuit of thieves leads him first into conflict with a lord and his servants, then into a growing plot involving illegal abortion, economic skullduggery and evil robbery. This allows for ample quantities of the heroes trademark anti authoritarian behaviour as he bulldozes through any custom or boundary that stands in the way of justice. He is a fearsome force, both in terms of fighting and sexuality, for happily Masumura doesn't shy away from emphasis on Hanzo's interrogation techniques and there are effective lashings of spurting blood dotted about in the fight sequences, of which there are a pleasing number. The adept plotting allows for a variety of hijinks, events are unpredictable but all hitched to a central plot involving gold, the film also interestingly combines traditional villainy in the form of a vicious thief and the social issues of the peasantry forced into crime by the economic problems visited upon them by corrupt officials. The world of The Snare is a sordid mire full of the seedy and twisted, all bound loosely together by the same underlying ills, and the structure of the film itself mirrors the world it illustrates, a confusion of mingling interlinked problems linked by Hanzo's progress as he cuts through the various ills of the film from beginning to end. Shintaro Katsu is near majestic as Hanzo, full of vigor and authority, touched with glimmers of twisted levity in some of the stock situations that recur from the previous film. His interplay with Ko Nishimura as his superior "Snake" Magobei has fine chemistry and a quirky comedy to it, as do his moments with his two freed criminal servants. Fine villainy is provided Kei Sato, coming across cruel and convincingly malign, whilst Toshio Kurosawa (Lady Snowblood and others) does a swell job as a noble ronin with a grudge. The film is all round pretty wonderful I think, it delivers on nudity, violence, suitably surprising and convoluted plotting and good characters. It perhaps could have been fitted together in a fashion conducive to more emotional impact like some of the very best chanbara cinema, and while well executed I would have liked a bit more originality instead of the few stock scenes recognisable from Sword Of Justice. Finally, whilst the fighting is very nicely choreographed, with all the appropriate sword wielding skill a shade more blood spurting violence certainly wouldn't have gone amiss, there were one or two moments where it would have contributed to the overall impact. But overall I found this to be an intensely satisfying, mightily entertaining affair, it barely puts a step wrong and delivers a mighty experience. Well, well worthwhile for fans of this sort of film, though as ever people apt to be offended by the political incorrectness or those who dislike older Japanese cinema should stay away.
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