Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai reveals yet another facet of this always-unpredictable filmmaker: a flair for compassionate, humane melodrama.
| Original Score: 3/4
A quiet, narratively layered period drama with a focus squarely on character.
| Original Score: 3.5/5
Miike can't seem to get enough of Hanshiro's heroics. That's not just visual excess, though.
A 3-D epic that, despite its title, is more of a soap opera than a swordplay thriller.
It's an indelible picture of a cold-hearted ruling class that has allowed self-interest and hypocrisy to override its own humanity.
| Original Score: 4/5
Miike brings a formal, elegant restraint to his usual flair for wild theatrics.
More moving than shocking, it proceeds slowly and gracefully, and the few scenes of bloodshed are emotionally intense rather than showily sensational.
With this sober, mournful, gorgeously mounted and marvelously acted drama, Miike connects himself to the greatest traditions of Japanese film and to the period of historical self-examination that followed the debacle of World War II.
Ryuichi Sakamoto's score, Nobuyasu Kita's cinematography and the performances are all impressive.
The Miike of old resurfaces for the climactic sequence, but Hara-Kiri seems intent on proving that his instinct to shock runs secondary to a more consistent instinct to rebel.
| Original Score: B+
Miike turns the format's inherent limitations, especially the tendency toward visual murkiness, to his advantage, fully immersing us in a world suffused with moral and ethical rot.
It may well be Miike's best film, a patient, ominous piece of epic storytelling that conscientiously rips the scabs off the honorable samurai mythology.
It doesn't help that Miike shot Hara-Kiri in 3-D, which as usual accomplishes nothing save for making the action look as if it's taking place during a partial eclipse of the sun.
| Original Score: C+