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Reviews & Ratings for
Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai More at IMDbPro »Ichimei (original title)

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19 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

On the deficiencies of wooden swords

Author: wandereramor from Canada
8 January 2013

Takashi Miike's second straight tribute to the samurai genre is a well-crafted and finely honed object. It's more consistent than Miike's previous samurai film, 13 Assassins, although that also means it lacks anything as great as that film's final battle. But what sets Hara-Kiri apart is its willingness to not just offer a pastiche of these films but genuinely question their values in a way that is still challenging to the contemporary viewer.

Through a series of events told partially in flashbacks, Hara-Kiri poses the question of how relevant our values are -- whether they be highly codified values like honour or the more nebulous instincts that guide us today -- in the face of human suffering. The ronin that we see humiliated and killed in the first act is not guilty of breaking some arcane samurai bylaw but of doing something most of us would find disgraceful. But as the film goes on it argues that we should hold compassion even for people such as this, and that honour is ultimately irrelevant in the face of social suffering. In an age of recession and austerity, where so many try to cling to their ideas of what they or other people "deserve", this is an important message.

It's an easy film to appreciate and a difficult one to love -- there's a kind of coldness to this set of Miike's movies that seems out of place with the gonzo enthusiasm of his earlier work. And doubtlessly it will be too slow and cerebral for some. But its critique of not just a canonized genre but the way in which we view ethics makes it well worth seeing.

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12 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

A Unique Take on the Samurai Vendetta Genre

Author: mistabobdobolina from Canada
3 August 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A samurai film set in the first generation after the rise of the Tokugawa Shogunate -- when the samurai were beginning to perceive the bitter reality that unity and peace were the death knell of much of their usefulness as a caste -- Hara-Kiri centers around a story of disgrace and revenge, but its take on this subject matter is unique, and it is one of the very few samurai films that actually reaches the point of questioning the ethos of "warrior's honour." It is not an action film, for the most part; although its climactic act does feature a fascinating one-against-many throwdown, it isn't there to provide gore and death. This is a film that revolves around story, characters and ideas.

The basic premise: with many samurai penniless and out of work under the Shogunate -- which has become vindictive about eliminating all possible threats to its power and has shut down whole domains -- a uniquely samurai kind of con artistry has sprung up, called the "suicide bluff," in which a ronin shows up at a well-appointed lordly estate, begs the use of the courtyard to commit seppuku, and thereby hopes to win the lord's sympathy and to be offered some money or a position in his retinue instead.

The film begins with one such story set at the House of Ii; the senior retainer, set to hear a suicide request from a penniless ronin, eyes him skeptically and then tells him (in flashback form) the story of another such ronin who came by attempting a suicide bluff just a short while earlier. The story of that young man, who shows up looking skinny, timorous and pathetic to make his request, is the story of an unsuspecting rube badly miscalculating the seriousness of the House of Ii's commitment to the samurai ideal, notwithstanding that most of its younger warriors have never seen combat. When the retainers of Ii discover that the young ronin has brought only a bamboo practice sword with him, they decide in rage to call his transparent bluff, summoning out the whole house to witness his suicide and sternly demanding that he go through with it... using only that same bamboo sword.

The youth's panic and seeming cowardice seem contemptible at first... but there is something just as twisted about the retainers' contempt when they discover he was just trying to get money to buy medicine for a sick wife and child. Finally, seeing that there's no way out, he does contrive to commit seppuku with the bamboo sword, in a scene of surpassing drawn-out agony and horror that will stay with you for days. (His "second," assigned to behead him, seems in particular to almost relish the young man's suffering, refusing to end it until he's twisted the bamboo blade in his guts to the man's satisfaction.) Back to the present, and the senior retainer of Ii offering this latest ronin the chance to leave with no questions asked. And that's when we discover that the two ronins' stories are connected... and that there's a larger objective of retribution in the newcomer's actions.

The drama that follows -- which affords us a chance to see the two ronin in an entirely different light, to discover their relationship and what brought them to their desperate pass, and to question whether the suppression of humaneness and empathy in the samurai code of conduct really just isn't a form of empty madness -- is deliberately-paced, intricately structured, and moving. It is well worth seeing, and indeed quite probably the best Japanese drama to be produced so far this century.

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11 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

How The Mighty Have Fallen

Author: georgep53 from Boston, MA
3 August 2012

Where does mercy fit in with the esprit de corps of a warrior class? Can there be honor without it? These are interesting questions raised in director Takashi Miike's poignant remake of the 1962 classic "Harakiri". This film may not satisfy the audience for slashing, body-count samurai movies because the emphasis is on mood and character but there are a number of things to recommend this film. "Hara-Kiri:Death of a Samurai" is beautifully photographed by Nobuyasu Kita and has laudable performances. Ebizo Ichikawa is Hanshiro a samurai with a young daughter of marriageable age. Hanshiro has adjusted to living in a time of peace. He isn't a wealthy man but seems happy and content making a living doing the odd job here and there. Ichikawa is wonderful in this role giving great weight and humanity to the character. He is a memorable samurai. Eita is Motome a young samurai who hasn't adjusted as well. He has been unable to find employment and so enters the house of a great lord asking for permission to commit harakiri in the courtyard and thus achieve an honorable death. Hikari Mitsushima is very affecting as Hanshiro's daughter, Miho. When I approached the theater showing this film I noticed someone walking away with teary eyes. I can't recall the last time that happened but after seeing "Hara-Kiri:Death of a Samurai" I understood why someone would be so moved.

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6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Great movie

Author: Tom Collis from United States
8 March 2014

I thought they did a wonderful job with this movie. They didn't sell out by making it all in English with American actors. They didn't go crazy making it a bloodbath just to get the younger viewers. The movie really gives you an insight into Japan's history and what life was like for these people. The atmosphere and story telling really draws you in. The acting is great especially one scene that had me cringing. There were a lot of parts where I was like whoa I didn't see that coming. I can understand those out there loyal to the original but you at least have to give the film makers of this remake credit. They stayed true to Japanese culture, they didn't get tom cruise or Keanu reeves to star in it. They didn't write it for the newer younger audience and make all the characters smart mouth kids. Unfortunately I haven't seen the original yet and I understand how those people might not like this one. I don't know how I would feel about a seven samurai remake? I think this movie was well done. It succeeded in telling a truly gripping story without going all modern on it and ruining it. I enjoyed it.

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6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Once upon a time in Japan a small samurai family lived happily till ...

Author: Reno Rangan from Somewhere in the Cosmos
8 August 2013

Takashi returns to the samurai world after the success of '13 assassins' in 2011. This movie was a remake of 1962 'Harakiri' which was also a massive hit movie. I have not seen the original but this movie blown me away. As usual the story opens slow and hard to identify the situation of the story but at the right middle of the movie the flashback strikes with awesome drama about poverty and family sentiment. Once the flashback was told you will easily say where the movie is heading. The story was classic and the movie was presented with rich cinematography. The first digital 3D movie for Takashi Miike as well the first 3D movie to premier at 2011 Cannes film festival.

You have to learn a word to understand the movie completely. 'Seppuku' - which means ritual suicide committed by a samurai. So that is why it's called 'Hara-kiri: death of a samurai'. You must have patience during opening sequences, without character and story development you will be in a tough position to understand about what's going on. While the story and character progress with the development you will start to get and you may fall for the emotion parts if you are a tenderhearted. And also you will be uncomfortable during 'seppuku' scene.

Takashi Miike's career best, this is what already everyone saying about it. But Its to hard to say which was his best, I like many of his works. I might be overwhelmed by the watch but will be happy to recommend it to others. I was very little unhappy for the ending scene otherwise I could have said it is the best of Takashi's work.

I am so curious about Takashi Miike's upcoming and Hollywood debutante project 'The outside' with Tom Hardy. Expecting it would be another 'The last samurai', I wish a good luck to the team.

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9 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Subtle, mature, sometimes excruciating drama

Author: Leofwine_draca from United Kingdom
17 June 2013

HARA-KIRI: DEATH OF A SAMURAI is Takashi Miike's follow-up to the crowd-pleasing, SEVEN SAMURAI-alike, 13 ASSASSINS. This film is a whole different kettle of fish entirely and it's almost as if Miike went deliberately out of his way to make an anti-13 ASSASSINS; there's no action here, none of the wonderfully choreographed fight scenes that made his previous film such a smash.

Instead, HARA-KIRI is an intense and emotional drama that explores notions of honour, familial ties and duty, packaging it in such a way that makes it a unique movie. As with most Miike, it's a sometimes obscure, often unwieldy production, deliberately going out of its way to be as slow-paced as possible and letting the story unfold in real time. Flashbacks are used extensively and those looking for an explosive, revenge-fuelled drama would do well to seek elsewhere as this isn't satisfying in that way at all.

Instead, it's a unique beast. The first 30 minutes is completely horrifying, a grisly ordeal that nearly manages to outdo PASSION OF THE Christ in its depiction of on screen suffering and pain. The rest of the film is a slow burner, although it does build up to an effective climax of sorts. The actors are well accomplished, with the excellent Ebizo Ichikawa holding the fort for much of the time. Needless to say, the level of technical proficiency is high and the film as a whole is expertly made; the intense drama of the characters' ordeals makes it one of Miike's most mature works yet.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

great movie, but translation seemed off

Author: christian Quintanilla from United States
12 February 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The basic plot of the movie is amazing.very original, and like nothing I've seen. The way the director chose not to end the movie with a revenge killing was amazing and didn't leave me with wanting of the characters to die. It made me feel as if his message got through and that his death at the end was fitting due to his completion of what he set out to do. The knowledge of the clans wrong doing set him for revenge but more powerful than blood. It seemed as if he made all the right moves and kept his honor. Unlike the clan. It made me feel content and confused with what really happened during the time of the samurai. The ending made me feel as if the icon of the armor was almost a god figure. When he tried to take it it said to me that the main character was saying to the clan " you aren't good enough to have it". And the throwing away of the hair knots made me think of how low the country of Japan got with the lowest point for me being world war 2. It was a very strong movie with lots of satisfying shots. But the only thing I didn't like was the subtitles. Sometimes they went to fast to read and left me wondering what someone said. Or the translation would be off for me.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Excruciating samurai drama with seppuku as its narrative vehicle.

Author: Akira-36 from New Zealand
2 January 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I have to say that Miike's jidaigeki or chanbara movies tend to be more consistently mature, well produced and of high quality narration. There are instances of the auteur director's trademark brutality or fetish popping up in one or two scenes in 13 Assassins as well as in Hara-Kiri.

But in the latter's case, it's almost entirely appropriate as the camera lingers on the excruciating pain suffered by samurais committing seppuku, the suicide ritual of regaining one's honour.

I watched 13 Assassins first, and had an uncomfortable premonition that Miike would shoot a movie with harakiri with its central theme, as 13 Assassins was opened with a painful harakiri scene. I felt that Miike hasn't completely purged his inner demons yet with that short but deeply affecting scene.

So now we have a well-made remake, with harakiri or seppuku as the movie's central narrative vehicle. I haven't actually watched the 1962 original, but feels that Miike's version has little pay offs by the end of the story.

Don't get me wrong, it is a well told, well acted piece of samurai drama with a strong message at the end of the movie - that by the time of the Edo period, honour in the samurai caste is but a farce or of superficial value. Reading Japanese feudal history, one would even assume that there was little honour to begin with when it came to the samurai caste of the past.

I find that the situation that the poor samurai families had to go through during that time was presented with panache, but I can't shake the feeling of fatality and hopelessness in Harakiri. I guess such feelings is to be expected of Miike's movies. His movies are rarely uplifting, although I have to say that I was totally satisfied, elevated even, with the ending of 13 Assassins.

Harakiri is bitter all the way through, with very little sweetness. It reminds me of classical novels where all the main protagonists suffer through the story and all end up dying in horrible manners.

I'm going to have to watch Samurai Fiction a couple of times to wash away the sadness that still lingers after watching Harakiri.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Unnecessary, but comes with a few slices of power

Author: adrongardner from USA
27 December 2015

Let's get this out of the way.

Kobayashi's hard hitting "Harakiri" is a masterpiece. It's one of the great pieces of not only Japanese cinema, but also one of the best movies of the 20th century. While I'm disappointed the film was remade at all, and surprised it came from Miike, there are still good things to be found here. To my surprise, for the most part, this is a good movie and in very small quantities, there are some true moments of greatness. Even if they are very short.

A good deal of the original film's grit is lost for most of this go around. The cinematography is over-lit and the pacing falls into lulls. But survive to the end and you will be rewarded as the final irony is quite powerful. I mean, no spoilers from me, but even with the cheesy fake snow, I have to say, Ebizô Ichikawa's powerful presence won me over and he truly wins the day when the time calls for it.

I was never too crazy about all the Kurosawa remakes of the 60s and 70s. Fistful of Dollars always felt like a cheap knock-off, because it is. The Magnificent Seven was sort of a tolerable chuckle. Kurosawa's films were so human, almost populist, because of their themes, his work was ripe for remake, reboot or even plagiarism. Only Star Wars seemed to get the joke and succeed in being something different than a pure Hidden Fortress copy. Kobayashi's Harakiri seemed to escape the trend for so long because of the subject matter - even the title! But here we are. There is still something not right about this "remake," but MIike gets it right in the end, even if never needed to be done in the first place.

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It does stand up to the original

Author: Ashton Lee
14 June 2017

The Kobayashi version is one of my favourite movies, so I came in expecting a decent but ultimately not-as-great remake. I was blown away. I cried at several points. It focuses even more on the raw human drama and overall the story is more detailed. The actors are excellent and the cinematography is beautiful.

The build is slow but keeps up tension, and the three duels are condensed (compared to the old movie), but the final battle more than makes up for that.

I'd say both versions are masterpieces, and watching them back-to-back would be worth it.

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