From prolific director Takashi Miike comes Blade of the Immortal, based on a long-running manga of the same name. The main character is Rin Asano (Hana Sugisaki), whose parents have been brutally murdered by a gang of master swordsmen. She seeks the help of the cursed Manji (Takuya Kimora), who is kept immortal by sacred “bloodworms” that live throughout his body and keep him from dying. Together they set out on a quest for revenge, or is it justice?
Blade of the Immortal is truly about having to live while not having anything to live for, in other words, too long for an ending that is never coming. Immortality is often something the villains of our stories tend to chase, not our heroes. Because when death ceases to have meaning, and life itself becomes something to be despised rather than cherished (like a few steps further down the path than John Wick).
This film portrays immortality as a curse, imposed on Manji by an external force for a past mistake that resulted in the death of 100 samurai. To his credit, Takuya Kimura brings a lot of this to the performance physically. Manji always seems exhausted, and his use of weapons seems clumsy, like his motor skills are reduced from rarely sleeping. He isn’t a superhero, he’s closer to a zombie. It is a great choice to help give Blade of the Immortal a unique feel.
The story unfolds in a relatively simple way, and while the non-action scenes aren’t terribly interesting, the action scenes are spectacular. Firstly, it is shot with a huge cast of extras, which adds a sense of realism to the fight scenes, some of which are the biggest I’ve seen shot entirely with real actors. You can even see them moan and move slightly in the background of shots as they bleed to death from their wounds. It makes the violence feel meaningful in a way that a horde of computer-made baddies never can. The choreography adds to this sense of realism as well, as the film uses wires and other non-human feats sparingly. Some of the weapons in Blade of the Immortal would seem impractical in live action, but the actors and staging completely sell the deadliness of the various sharp implements used by the characters, including a sword with a sawblade on one side.
Without being familiar with the source material, I can’t speak to how faithful it is. But Takashi Miike has taken this series and distilled it into the perfect kind of film to watch in a crowded theater. With blood splatter at every corner, and just enough plot as required to tell the story, it is a charming, fun escape.
Blade of the Immortal opens today at the Ritz Bourse.
Author: Ryan Silberstein
Ryan spends his days at a company named one of the best to work for in the Philadelphia area, and his nights
as a mysterious caped vigilante saving his city from the disease that is crime watching movies. He lives on a diet consisting of film, comic books, experimental beer, black coffee, and those big metal historical markers around town. Follow him on Twitter and Letterboxd.