Director: Takashi Miike
Cast: Kôji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada, Yûsuke Iseya
In the declining days of the Shogunate, a sadistic lord, protected by bloodline and destined for higher office, commits acts so abominable that the advisory body recoils in horror. It despatches a distinguished samurai to gather a handful of worthy followers and kill the monster, and any of his equally appalled retinue who oppose them.
Remaking a 1960s telling of the same name and, like its predecessor, carrying more than a reminiscence of Seven Samurai about it, Miike's epic actioner is both a sombre rumination on the times whose injustices it depicts (until the end, one supposes the action is set in the middle ages, not the mid nineteenth century), and a nostalgic look at the code of honour that could send young men to almost certain death without a qualm, and place like-minded schoolfriends within a sword's length of each other. The detail of the first half, stoking high the sentiment against Shinrokuro, is familiarly horrific in nature for any acquainted with the director's oeuvre, while the spectacular battle in the village that forms the second is a masterpiece of choreography and stuntwork. Yakusho is magnificent as the leading assassin, though his self-sacrifice at the end is disappointing.