Theatrical Release: February 27, 2009
Blu Ray Release: May 26, 2015
Director: Kurando Mitsutake
Review by Travis North
I had reasonable expectations for this movie when given the disc to review. At first glance, it looks like a Japanese 70’s samurai movie that I may have overlooked. Being a fan of the great Lone Wolf and Cub series, I expected something in the same vein. Instead I get a painful homage to the genre.
The plot is pretty standard stuff. A man has his family raped and murdered in front of him, including forcing himself to poke out his own eyes. He survives the assault and vows revenge. After some obligatory training sequences he is now The Blind Wolf, with the only thing standing his way of exacting vengeance is a series of seven assassins, each with their own back stories.
On paper, this sounds great. There is a good amount of nudity, plenty of make up effects and gore including the massive arterial blood torrents we all love, sword fighting, wide format cinematography, basically everything that fans of Japanese samurai films expect. This is a U.S. based project though, and made in 2009. I thought maybe having the director, Kurando Mitsutake, being native born Japanese would make something worthwhile. His love of the genre is there, but being the director, writer, producer, and main actor every bit of fault lies at his feet. There is no shortage of demerits to be found.
First off, the acting and writing are just horrendous. Every action scene is amateurishly choreographed, using quick cuts to hide the lack of skill of everyone involved. Even that can’t hide how untalented the actors are at fighting. An obese Steven Seagal is more convincing, and almost as slow the moves on display here.
Throughout the film the movie will come to a literal halt so a narrator can give us a history lesson on Japanese weapons, history, or pronunciation. While they are interesting facts, they ruin the flow of the movie. I mentioned the make up effects, which aren’t too bad. Some are Troma-level, others show skill in the form of the trio of undead, rotting assassins controlled by a pregnant master (and yes, her stomach is cut open with baby spilling out). The random introductions of CGI stick out and cheapen any effect work or attempts to seem vintage. And not to bring up the contentious topic of Quentin Tarantino, and it is not his fault, but almost every movie he makes unleashes a torrent of stylistic rip-offs. This movie is a perfect example. If I never see people introducing fake negative scratches and splices to make a “grindhouse” effect I’d be quite happy. Like most movies that use these effects are the abandonment of it throughout the movie. I can see how a person who has no exposure to any movie like this before might be impressed, but if you’ve only seen a handful of movies like this before you will know how horrible this misfire is.
For fans of this film, the picture and sound are fine, but of course Synapse gives you plenty of extras to supplement your purchase. There is a making-of that is almost as long as the movie itself. Mostly consisting of behind the scenes shots, this does have a few talking head portions (funny how no matter what movie is being made everyone is a genius and so great to work with and amazing and apparently have egos so fragile you need to have a giant circle jerk) and some nice footage of the makeup team working hard on 80’s style full head casts.
What really surprised me were the clips of Mitsutake’s student films. These looked more impressive and showed more promise than what occurred with this larger budget full length feature. There is also a commentary, trailer, blooper reel, and a sword fight choreography short that was shot on video and shows a doughy American sensei giving directions on how to use a sword. This just seemed like it was dying to end up being a YouTube video that gets remixed and AutoTuned a million times. Unfortunately it was not meant to be funny and instead a training video for the cast on how to handle weapons. Kind of sums up this movie, it is supposed to be a serious labor of love but comes off as a bad joke.
Blu Ray Rating: