Raizô Ichikawa plays Ishikawa Goemon, a legendary bandit hero in this Japanese trilogy set during the reign of Oda Nobunaga--the man who nearly conquered all of Japan during the 16th century (before this, the country was split into many disunited kingdoms). The problem with this is that after I researched about the real life Goemon, I found that very little is known about the man and so over the years Japanese plays and movies have taken great liberties with who the man MIGHT have been. In this movie, Goemon is a ninja--though other sources I read didn't make mention of this nor did I read about him trying to assassinate Nobunaga, but another man (Hideyoshi)--but this isn't even certain.
This particular installment finds Goemon a very happy man. He now could care less about Nobunaga and the power-struggle in Japan. All he really is interested in is caring for his wife and young son. However, Nobunaga is intent on killing off all the ninjas and eventually his men catch up to Goemon and in a rather grisly scene, they murder his kid. As a result, Goemon is rededicated to the death of Nobunaga and takes his wife to a region of the country that has resisted joining Nobunaga's alliance.
However, later in the film, after Goemon succeeds in killing Nobunaga (remember, historically, it didn't happen this way), the film actually gets closer to the life story of Goemon. Instead of focusing all his rage on Nobunaga, his successor, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, is responsible for the slaughter of Goemon's new clan--as well as his loving wife. Goemon then attempts to kill Hideyoshi and is thwarted--an undisputed historical fact. And, as a result, Goemon is about to be boiled to death as the film ends (also an apparent historical fact).
Like the first film in the series, this one emphasizes intrigue more than action, though this one does have a bit more action in the form of some very exciting and explicit scenes. There certainly is a lot more blood and excitement here--as a result, it's a vast improvement in the series--and a film well worth seeing. However, it is hard to distinguish who is who again (i.e., who is aligned with who) and it might help if you read up on it a bit first before seeing the movie--this certainly helped me.
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