Can a sinful man change and find peace? It's unlikely in gang-plagued Japan. Jokichi of Mikogami, a drifter (and hired sword), goes straight after protecting a woman in distress: they marry... See full summary »
Can a sinful man change and find peace? It's unlikely in gang-plagued Japan. Jokichi of Mikogami, a drifter (and hired sword), goes straight after protecting a woman in distress: they marry, have a son, and Jokichi pursues his father's craft. After three years, the gangs he embarrassed when he saved his wife find the family and leave Jokichi in grief, vowing revenge. To parry his terrible swift sword, rival gangs join forces, hiring a prostitute to pose as a woman needing help and breaking the code of honor to double cross the drifter. He finds unlikely allies: a thief who aids him for fun and a one-eyed swordsman who may be Jokichi's equal in skill and honor. A woman watches. Written by
A prime example of early 70's Japanese pulp fiction
There's little more that separates a good revenge story from a bad one than how much the writer can involve the audience. It's not enough for the protagonist to crave and exact revenge, the audience must crave it as much as he does. Yawns and snoozes are not far off in cutting down a number of incompetent henchmen if the viewer doesn't root for every slice and every punch thrown. In that aspect, although far from something that will pack Cinematheques, TRAIL OF BLOOD is a success as a functional genre piece.
With previous experience in the field helming entries for the ZATOICHI and SLEEPY EYES OF DEATH series, director Kazuo Ikehiro writes this first entry in the MIKOGAMI trilogy in the pulpy style that swept chambara in the early 70's and with regards to a serialized character not unlike blind masseur Ichi or Nemuri Kyoshiro. An alienated ronin hellbent for revenge, an angel of death 'walking the path of demons'. Whereas the traumatizing event that sends the protagonist in search for revenge was usually presented in a flashback fashion in spaghetti westerns, Ikehiro crafts his story in a linear fashion, something that detracts the element of surprise that followed Italian men with no names, but on the other hand allows for the rage and anger to gradually build up in both protagonist and audience.
In American exploitation films of the same time, it was usually the female that was ravaged and humiliated. Here we have the male protagonist being tortured in the hands of yakuzas. Something made more frustrating by the fact that Jokichi is a master swordsman only holding back for the sake of his family. When he finds his wife and son murdered by the same scoundrels he saved her from before he married her, all hell breaks loose. There's nothing to hold back for anymore and Jokichi cuts down his way through a vast number of disposable extras with little or no effort. The fights lack the intense stylization and bloodletting of LONE WOLF AND CUB, a cornerstone of early 70's chambara in more ways than one, but are savage and vigorous enough to keep genre fans content. Ikehiro knows he won't be getting any retrospectives in the future for his work and his direction is more serviceable than outstanding but it will have to do.
All in all an entertaining, if not slightly disjointed, fix of slice and dice mayhem with a bleak first half that will also appeal to fans of revenge exploitation movies and a large bodycount.
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