Kiru (Kill) Reviews
The picture presents a story about two luckless, hungry would-be warriors, who find themselves in the middle of a ferocious battle between the opposing sides of a dangerous yakuza clan. Genta (Tatsuya Nakadai) is a former samurai, who got tired of the difficult lifestyle of a wandering ronin. He wasn't able to find any other work, and just wound up in the deserted city, where he met Hanjiro (Etsushi Takahashi), an ex-farmer who wants to become a samurai, but didn't have a chance to prove his abilities yet. As soon as the two discover that the abandoned city is a battleground for a merciless group of samurai retainers, it's simply too late, and they get dragged into the whole deadly intrigue in just a matter of minutes. It becomes clear that one side of the conflict betrayed the other, and the resolution of the struggle might come only when one of the parties kills the other. In the cutthroat game of murder and betrayal, the two main characters take differing sides, and in order to achieve success they need to kill each other at first. Though Hanjiro's first assignment as an aspiring samurai is to dispose of Genta, he hesitates for a long time, as Genta proved to be a valuable source of information regarding the precious samurai life. As the tension mounts, and both groups become more and more irritated and bloodthirsty, Hanjiro and Genta decide to team up and outsmart everyone in their way, leading on to one of the most riveting and satisfying finales in a samurai picture ever filmed.
The problem with Kill! is that it's not as well-known around the world as it really should be. Moreover, it's simply an under-watched samurai epic, even though it actually shares all the common values of a many prominent Kurosawa pictures. Here the portrayal of the typical samurai warriors is a most parodical one, as Kill! shows that there are those, who behave only badly and those, who behave only honorably, and there's nothing in-between. It's a game-changer of sorts when it comes to the topic of samurai, given its highly fanciful attempt at denuding all the hidden aspects of those seemingly convoluted personas.
The cinematography is as raw-looking as it is actually picture-perfect. It brings out all that's eye-popping about the beautiful, yet blood-filled, Japanese scenery.
Kill! also references various other samurai pictures, playing with the idea of a dramatic and serious samurai film, giving itself an utterly lighthearted tone. Kihachi Okamoto created a little, under-appreciated gem that's not only engaging, but also truly smart and concise.
The central story is a compelling one, pitting the courage and youthful idealism of the seven against the callous deceptions of Ayuzawa These are men who despite their inexperience and naiveté are committed to their cause and fully prepared to die for it if need be. But although they may not be fools or cowards, neither are they hardened warriors, accustomed to a life on the run. When things are down, they fight, they get scared, they make mistakes, but they manage to pull it together. And although I couldn't keep their names strait, each of them have been developed with their own personalities and character traits.
The most interesting character by far though is Genta. He's an outsider, a vagrant. He's got no connection to the seven, no reason to get involved. Yet from the moment he meets them commits himself to their cause and repeatedly risks his life to aid them. And believe me, there is no better man to have on your side. In battle, he possesses the power of a raging storm and the grace of a dancer, easily cutting down half a dozen opponents. Even more formidable is his cunning and charisma, which allow him to pit enemies against each other and undermine them from within.
Genta remains something of an enigma for most of the film. We learn early on that he used to be a samurai, and that he had a falling out with his former master. But almost until the end we receive only oblique hints as to what lies in his past, and what motivates his actions now. It's clear however that he holds no regard for his former profession. For him, it's not the title or rank that matters, but the kind of man you are.
His sometimes ally Tabata is the main source of comic relief. His stubbornness, earnestness and all around cluelessness are worth more than a few chuckles, and remind me just a bit of the peasants from The Hidden Fortress. His early fight scenes are among the funniest parts, as he tries his hardest to strike down a foe who nonchalantly comments on his technique while dodging his clumsy blows. I also enjoyed the bit involving the chicken, but the part that evoked the most laughs would have to be the frantic brothel scene, which is not nearly as risqué as it sounds.
Kill! is not only a lot of fun and quite funny, but also surprisingly deep, sometimes poignant, and possesses a clear message about what it truly means to be honorable. It is a credit to its genre, and one hell of an action flick.
The history of samurai films and Westerns are so intertwined and so recursive that Akira Kurosawa once said he made more money from his lawsuit over [i]Yojimbo[/i], remade without his permission as [i]A Fistful of Dollars[/i], than he did over [i]Yojimbo[/i] itself, but the original is itself lifted from Dashiell Hammett. No, Dashiell Hammett didn't write Westerns, but he's just one example of the influence American culture had on Japanese film. [i]Seven Samurai[/i] was remade as [i]The Magnificent Seven[/i], but [i]Seven Samurai[/i] itself feels like a Western. The music in this film has the feel of that which was being written for spaghetti Westerns at about that time, and it strikes me as probable that it in turn influenced people writing music for later Westerns. Disentangling the threads of who was influenced by what is complicated enough so that you might write a dissertation on it, if you're so inclined. I am not.
Genta (Tatsuya Nakadai) was a samurai, but this is the days of the shogunate, and it is no world for samurai anymore. He ends up involved in a pitched battle between seven members of a local clan and everyone else. They rebel against the local chancellor, but their superior, Tamiya Ayuzama (Shigeru Kôyama), does not give them the support he promises, switching his allegiance back. It seems as though half the cast used to be samurai and the other want to be, with the obvious exception of the women. Not that there are many of those. But Genta doesn't seem interested in most of the details, which is just as well, because I missed a lot of them myself. He is determined, though he doesn't seem entirely sure why, to keep all seven of the men alive. This, as one might imagine, is rather easier said than done. He also seems to be drawn into every interpersonal relationship among them, doing whatever needs doing. And his past is trying to catch up with him, just to keep things interesting.
I am given to understand that some people miss the parody elements of this movie. It is important to note that director Kihachi Okamoto does not intend us to admire much of anyone's nobility. Not even Genta, Our Ostensible Hero, is all that noble; the movie begins and ends with contemplation of a chicken which might be made into dinner. The same chicken, even, which has outlived no few characters. He attempts to do right by the women, at least, though he seems unable to explain himself to them. But there is no honour here. Everyone is willing to pretend there is, though, and this is where parody begins. We see behind the actions more than the average samurai epic would let us, and it means that we are able to see that hardly any of these people are doing things because they think those things are right. Mostly, they're trying to live comfortable lives. Those who are trying to live by their sense of honour do so almost having forgot what the reasons behind it ever were.
Really, what sells this movie as much as it is sold is Tatsuya Nakadai's performance. He does a little rubberface acting, which I don't generally find appealing, but he does more of it with a straight face. (Which looks more like Adrien Brody's than it ought to be able to.) The performance is not the best I've seen, but he manages to make a not entirely likable character appealing. The character fits more into the trickster archetype than the stoic hero one; this is not a Clint Eastwood role. This is a man who will cheerfully let someone pretend to have killed him, if it makes life easier for the pair of them. In fact, he has to pretend to have been killed several times, and at last, he ends up helping Tabata (Etsushi Takahashi) kill someone else, which I suppose is quite good enough. And of course Tabata doesn't care quite enough about the honour and dignity of being made a samurai to actually do the work of killing Genta.
Oh, it's a charming enough movie. Not, I don't think, a real classic, and I think I only came across it by looking for another film. (Italian, I believe, and called [i]Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill![/i] Which is obviously four times as determined.) However, one of the things I have been developing these last five years is a greater understanding and appreciation of world cinema. I think possibly Japanese may well be my favourite, but I have developed enough knowledge of film to speak intelligently about the French New Wave and Italian Neorealism. I can discuss the development of film behind the Iron Curtain. And I have developed a great love of blaxploitation. So. I don't think you have to be a cinephile to enjoy this. Which is good, because I hate that word. (I do love that Opera suggests "oenophile" instead. Pick your intoxication, I suppose.) I think it would be easy to get bored and distracted, though, especially if you weren't aware of the parody elements. And the influence of Westerns, of course, though you'd spot that pretty quickly on your own.
Back to the film at hand: I liked the beginning, and the parody elements. But the story overall was too convoluted to catch any real steam. The only things driving it forward were Nakadai and the friendship that forms between the main characters. I literally Lol'd ,as they say, on a few parts.
Also I know it was probably a parody, maybe, perhaps of Sanjuro because the villain was the exact same actor, the story line was also insanely similar. They were both based off the same source material but I just don't see why it has to be a parody as opposed to a different interpretation. Eh either way it didn't work out great, an average film albeit a pretty good looking one with a few cool elements and some funny moments. Was a little on the long side at 2 hours.
I would only refer it to hardcore cine-files and aficionados of samurai films. I would however recommend the tribal drum soundtrack....nice, reminded me of the score to Onibaba.