When the wife of the Shogun's Decapitator is murdered and he is ordered to commit suicide by the paranoid Shogun, he and his four-year-old son escape and become assassins for hire, embarking on a journey of blood and violent death.
After the original Lone Wolf comics, films and TV series came out in the seventies, the character stayed off the movie screens until this film came along. A radical reworking of the main character, Ogami Itto, the Lone Wolf, is the most notable aspect of this production.
Condensing the entire Lone Wolf story cycle into one movie, the filmmakers concentrate on Itto's goal of revenge against the Yagyu clan who killed his wife and ruined his reputation. They skip the hired assassin plot line almost completely! The story cycle was never completed by the original movies although the 1973 TV series did finish with the ending from the manga. The filmmakers also dispensed with the famous baby cart so son Daigoro is always walking with his father.
These changes are mild in comparison with their vision of Ogami Itto. He's portrayed as a sensitive father who can't bring himself to kill his own son, crying and screaming when he tries to do it. This is a far cry (sorry) from the character as played by Tomisaburo Wakayama. You knew his Ogami Itto would kill his own son if fate decreed it. Yagyu Retsudo, originally a wild eyed maniac who is bent on killing Itto even if it destroys his own family, is presented here as a moral character who is torn between admiration for Itto and duty to his clan's evil plans. As played by the famous Tatsuya Nakadai, this new Retsudo works in a way. Unfortunately the same can't be said for Masakazu Tamura playing Ogami Itto. Tomisaburo Wakayama was so intense that it's hard to imagine anyone comparing well. Even Kinnosuke Nakamura who played Ogami Itto on the TV series, which was apparently more popular then the films, worked in the shadow of Wakayama. Masakazu Tamura is too low key although he handles the action well. One of the strong points of the original series was that you would get glimpses of a moral and sensitive man under the demonic exterior. The film is decently shot but once again the stylistic direction of the original series puts this to shame.
Some people like this film. I don't.
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