Crazy Samurai Musashi
ARTHIT CO. LTD (2020)
Director: Yûji Shimomura
Starring: Tak Sakaguchi
Fantasia Festival 2020 Selection
What a cool title.
Before watching Crazy Samurai Musashi, I was aware of the titular crazed samurai though I can’t say that I’d call myself an expert on him or even that I knew anything about him, but it’s a name I had come across at some point. Having watched the movie, I now know what Musashi is all about. He’s a machine. A samurai sword-wielding, death dealing beast of a man and Yûji Shimomura utilises a very ambitious method of film-making in order to totally get this across.
Essentially, Crazy Samurai Musashi is one long, uncut action sequence – literally uncut – that sees Miyamoto Musashi (Sakaguchi) taking on an entire clan of samurai (588 apparently) against various backdrops in one fairy sizeable location. That’s the movie. It’s bookended by the briefest of expositionary scenes and an epilogue set years later – however, you may be hard pressed to identify the reason why Musashi is tearing through this clan, he just...is? Shimomura doesn’t really confirm whether Musashi is the protagonist or the antagonist of the situation – the clan want rid of Musashi for reasons given in the movie but Musashi is seemingly a terminator with the goal of wiping this clan out. The one clear point, however, is that Sakaguchi is awesome and has the stamina of an antelope – my muscles ached watching him battle for well over an hour in one continuous sequence, it’s a testament to his ability and dedication that he was able to pull it off without breaking character at any point. As for the clan, Shimomura uses around thirty extras that routinely get killed, roll or stumble off camera (sometimes in the most painfully obvious way) and rejoin the skirmish as a new clan member. It’s certainly an interesting and economical way of maximising the tools at your disposal but the initial fight sequence did make it seem like it was a training exercise with people moving in and out of the battle like they were participating in a paintball game. The entire sequence is shot in a handheld guerrilla style, the camera is right in the thick of the battle which did allow for some great looking action shots and also captured the setting sun in all its glory against some decent locations. However, the main issue is it all felt a bit stale after about fifteen minutes. It was very watchable as a sequence, but it became monotonous very quickly thus allowing your eyes to notice the extras darting back and forth.
To pull off a pretty seamless one shot action sequence in excess of seventy minutes is absolutely no mean feat and Shimomura deserves a lot of credit for his perseverance, vision and ability to ensure that, whilst the action became repetitive, there was always a momentum to the fighting. Once you get past the technical achievement, however, Crazy Samurai Musashi is pretty bare bones – it’s great to witness as a one-time watch but even then you may feel your attention drifting elsewhere.
August 16th 2020