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An adaptation of Higashino Keigo's sixth novel in the popular Galileo series. Professor Yukawa Manabu must solve the mysteries of seemingly accidental death of another guest at the countryside motel he was spending his vacation in.
For the past 15 years or so, there has been a noticeable steady stream of refreshingly quirky Japanese Jidaigeki Chambara (period movie with swordplay) films that have much lighter touch and feel, than the older style over-the-top serious dramas, that became somewhat stagnated and boringly routine during the 80's and 90's.
Just to mention few of this newer style here: "A Tale of Samurai Cooking: A True Love Story" (2013), "After the Rain" (1999), "Kiyosu Conference" (2013) and "Dora-heita" (2000) are just few examples of the real treasure trove, that modern Japanese film industry has become.
Just having finished watching "Samurai Hustle", I can't begin to tell you, how delightful surprise this movie was! The story is not only well written, it is simply superbly written! It also has some ingenious comedy elements, the sword fight scenes are extremely well choreographed, and even utilises "Matrix" style CGI, with stop screens. Although, I must say that much more could have been yanked out of the fight scenes with slightly better editing and/or camera work. And this is the only low key of the movie. However, it must be equally said, that isn't the real backbone of this movie, which relies heavily on telling a story which is somewhat typical for Japanese films. From the very beginning, we know we are about see another story which emphasises the eternal fight between good and evil, right against wrong, poor against rich, and so on. The subject of injustice and how to handle it, is something that Japanese film makers do more than any other movie making country. You could say it is almost a constant variable, which is as important as the Daikon radish in Tokyo style Ramen.
Interestingly, contrary to what you might expect, the film makers seem to also have pushed the famous, much fabled Bushido code, to the backseat, while it is there of course very much present, but it isn't stiff and forced over, which actually comes off rather well. This might even cause disturbance among some of the die hard fans of the genre, who consider Bushido as "untouchable". However, in this movie, it only adds to the enjoyment of this film, and it still provides a realistic portrayal of the era's strict code of ethics, but it is just done without unnecessary and uncalled "theatrics" that can be used to describe some of the older specimens of this genre.
There are also few other really interesting points in this movie, worth taking a closer look. You might want to take a special notice how meticulously well the wardrobe the actors wear has extremely realistic appearance of clothing actually worn during the 1700s, you can see the dust, sweat stains, tiny patches, and handmade crude stitches, that a poor samurai would use to mend his own clothing.
Besides the costume department, set decoration is the ultimate pinnacle of carefully well thought out and highly detailed period style. Nothing, and I do really mean NOTHING seems to be out of place in this movie. Every single set or prop looks exactly like we would be transported back in time into the 18th century Japan. You can almost smell the fresh lacquer from the wood. Even insects they used look great! The two hour duration is just right for telling an excellent story like this. And you won't be disappointed, the movie is that good, it should well last more than one viewing, without getting bored.
Finally... I must say, that even when this movie isn't an instant classic "masterpiece" in epic proportions, it is still pure entertainment at it's best, and that is what good movies should ultimately be. And most definitely, you will most certainly be better off watching this movie, if you don't try to take it too seriously. Honestly, you'll get much more out of this while watching without any specific expectations. Just enjoy watching a great, entertaining story unfolding right in front of you.
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