July 19, 2020

SAMURAI MARATHON...and You Thought Running with Scissors was Dangerous

Starring Takeru Satoh, Nana Komatsu, Mirai Moriyama, Shota Sometani, Munetaka Aoki, Hiroki Hasegawa, Ryu Kohata, Yuta Koseki, Danny Huston. Directed by Bernard Rose. (2019/106 min)

Review by Tiger the Terrible😸

In the 1850s, the American Navy introduces guns to previously-isolated Japan, which concerns slightly-unhinged Lord Itaskura (Hiroki Hasegawa). Fearing a newly-armed shogun invasion, Itsakura orders his samurai to assemble. One of his men, an accountant named Jinnai (Takeru Satoh), is actually a shogun spy and sends a letter warning them. However, it turns out that Itaskura is simply making his samurai participate in a 36 mile endurance race because he feels 200 years of peace has rendered them soft.

Jinnai tries to retrieve his letter, but it's too late...shogun fighters are on their way, one who's armed with a gun. Meanwhile, other race participants include Itsakura's daughter, Yuki (Nana Komatsu), disguising herself as a man to avoid marrying perpetually angry Tsujimura (Mirai Moriyama), who's vowed to find her (beheading a few poor saps along the way). A few other characters are featured as the race commences, but they're less essential to the plot. And with the exception of Jinnai, none of them are anticipating any genuine conflict.

When the ice cream man drives through your neighborhood at 35 m.p.h.
Of course there's gonna be conflict. Who the hell wants to watch a hundred guys running through the forest for two hours, especially with all those swords handy? Samurai Marathon is supposedly based on a real life event which inspired a foot race that's still held in Japan every year. But since the movie isn't a history lesson, let's not concern ourselves with accuracy. What ultimately matters is the story, characters and, above all, the action, all of which the film handles quite well. The narrative is a bit jumpy at first, juggling too many plot threads. However, once it sharpens its focus to the race and impending shogun threat, it becomes quite engaging, especially the close-quarters action sequences, which are exciting and sometimes bloody.

Well-drawn characters help cement Samurai Marathon in the win column, a few who undergo interesting changes as the story progresses. Even some of the peripheral characters are more fleshed-out more than those you usually find in similar action films. The film concludes with a title card stating the samurai marathon has-since become annual event, which might be as historically accurate as it gets. But fact or fiction, the whole thing's pretty enjoyable.


No comments: