23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
All genres, such as Western, Horror or Science Fiction, eventually become a bit played out, and a parody is needed to poke fun at the cliches and stereotypes, wiping the slate clean and allowing for a re-invention of the genre. It happened with such films as "Scream" and "Blazing Saddles." For the Samurai genre there is "Kill!"
Directed by Okamoto Kihachi ("Sword of Doom," "Zatoichi Vs. Yojimbo," "Samurai Assassin"), "Kill!" (Japanese title "Kiru") is not a blatant comedy, and many fail to see its humor. Like anything that plays with genre, one has to be fairly familiar with the "rules" to understand the jokes that are being made at their expense. There is some visual slapstick, and some very funny scenes (some of the battles are filmed in fast-motion, making the Samurai run around like the Keystone Cops), but most of the humor is far more subtle and black.
The story finds three warriors coming together on a single path. Genta, a roguish wandering Yakuza, seems to know more than he should considering his station. Hanji is a rough-hewn farmer who seeks to increase his lot in life, and tries to pass himself off as a Samurai. Tetsutaro is an idealistic and proper Samurai, who's belief in honor allows him to be manipulated by those less honorable and more crafty. Tetsutaro is being set up to take a fall, as his lord convinces him to assemble a group to assassinate a rival official, and then promptly sells him out once the deed is done. Hanji, a man of immense strength and little talent, is hired as a Samurai by Tetsutaro's lord and then sent to his group, now holed up in a hidden fortress. Into this convoluted politics, Genta feels responsible for the naive Hanji and Tetsutaro, and attempts to play both sides Yojimbo-style in order to bring the fiasco to a close, mocking the Samurai ideals and encouraging happiness instead. Of course, Hanji falls in love with a prostitute who "smells like the Earth" and Tetsutaro's love Chino finds some sparks with Genta.
The cast is top-notch, with Samurai-film champion Nakadai Tatsuya ("Ran," "Yojimbo," "Sword of Doom") playing the good-natured Genta and Takahashi Etsushi ("The Yagyu Clan Conspiracy") as the farmer Hanji. The girls are quite lovely too, with Hoshi Yuriko ("Chushingura," several "Godzilla" flicks) as the stunning Chino. Okamoto Kihachi is a great director, and maximizes his cast and balances the serious nature of some of the scenes with the ridiculous, such as when Hanji lifts the ceiling off a brothel to establish his claim to a girl.
I love Samurai films, and it is nice to see a black parody done so well, while still managing to be an excellent flick in its own right. I would recommend having a few standard films under your belt before you watch "Kill!," or you might not get some of the references. Be even so, it can be appreciated as a straight-forward film with some oddball humor thrown in to boot.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
This is another selection from Criterion's Rebel Samurai collection.
What a fun film! I didn't realize until it was over that it was based on the same story that Kurosawa adapted for Sanjuro. As I was watching, some similarities did occur to me (scruffy-but-skilled protagonist with disdain for traditional samurai life; small group of samurai hiding out from corrupt official), but it is otherwise (and even in those similarities) a completely different story.
The basic plot concerns a group of samurai who assassinate a corrupt official and then go into hiding, awaiting the arrival of the good official from the north who will come set everything right. As they are waiting, another corrupt official is trying to hunt them down. The two main characters come into town looking for work and food, and become involved on opposite sides.
Tatsuya Nakadai plays the experienced and world weary Genta, and it's my favorite role of his yet. He's such an affable decent fellow, and his interactions with Hanjiro (Etsushi Takahashi) make up a large part of the charm of the movie. It's also very different from his role in Sanjuro, which is also very different from that in Yojimbo (that guy is in just about every samurai movie). Hanjiro is an aspiring samurai, a former farmer whose years of toil have made him very strong. He's not the brightest bulb, but he's enthusiastic and determined, despite Genta's constant warnings that samurai aren't all that great. The opening scene where the two of them meet in a desolate town, looking for food, is a perfect introduction that sets up the relationship and tone for the rest of the movie.
It's a very funny movie, but it's black comedy to be sure. One of the earliest gags involves the image of a townsperson who has hanged herself. It's played for a laugh, and it works, but that's pretty dark. Like Sanjuro, Kill! doesn't care for the samurai values and has a good time deconstructing them.
Kill! also has a great soundtrack. Most memorable is the spaghetti western styled guitar from the beginning of the film.
Like the better spaghetti westerns, the movie features some great compositions, cuts, and editing. And a great score featuring a Morricone-esque guitar number at the beginning. And some great action (Genta knows his sword-play).
As far as the disc itself, this Criterion disc sports a very nice transfer, good subtitling (only truly appreciated when you've had to endure bad subtitling), the original trailer and teaser, and an essay in the booklet.
If you're interested in a black and white samurai movie that isn't all stern-faces and yelling, check this one out. This is one I'd show friends who were not up for a "serious" samurai film.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
The film "Kill," is not one of your usual samurai flicks, therefore, it might not be for everyone. However, I thought it was pretty good, and I certainly liked the parody that the film delivers in this samurai flick. This film was directed by Kihachi Okamoto, who also brought the world the epic samurai film, "Sword of Doom," [which also stars Tatsuya Nakadai]. The film is very dark, and humorous at the same time. I remember first seeing this film with my best friend years ago, and it was a pleasure to finally purchase it and watch it again. I liked it when I first saw it, and many years later, I still enjoyed the film. Only, I liked it more now, as the films dark humor and parody which I did not understand at the time no longer allude me. This humor is infused into the characters. This is what makes the film so different.
Quite frankly, I really laughed hard at the parts where the samurai were running around during the battle scenes, only the film was put into fast forward motion, and what you have is an early 1920s type vignette of a film in which the samurai are intentionally moving at a fast pace. Now that's funny. Especially when you have a film starring (Tatsuya Nakadai) in the starring role. [Who can forget his character in "Sword of Doom?"] The film centers on three warriors. The first one, Genta, (Tatsuya Nakadai) is a wandering yakuza. The second one is Hanji, (Takahashi Etsushi) a farmer who wants to better his lot in life, and poses as a samurai. While the third character is named Tetsutaro, and he is a true samurai.
Tetsutaro is basically being set up by his Lord as the patsy. His lord convinces him that it is necessary to kill a rival lord. He wants Tetsutaro to gather up a group of assassins to kill this rival official. However, things do not go well for him, as he is betrayed by this very same lord after the deed has been accomplished. Genta, good natured as he is feels responsible for the other two friends, Tetsutaro and Hanji, and attempts to play two sides in order to help the other two. [reminiscent of Yojimbo starring Toshiro Mifune]. The film is a very good watch, I would recommend it to anyone who likes samurai films. The film is infused with dark humor, and the film is a very enjoyable watch. I own it, and like the film very much. Highly recommended.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
This excellent samurai film skewers the self-important preoccupation with duty and honor that this genre of film can lend itself to. Genta (Tatsuya Nakadai) has given up the life of a samurai to pursue the life of a wandering yakuza after duty compelled him to kill a friend. Hanji (Takahashi Etsushi) is a farmer and would-be samurai whose native honesty and good humor makes it hard for him the follow the path of bushido. Tetsutaro (Kubo Akira) is a more conventional samurai hero, whose sense of duty allows him to become the pawn of an unscrupulous man. Nakadai, Takahashi, and several other cast members give wonderful comic performances. Although this film pokes fun at the conventions of the samurai film, it still delivers some great action along with the humor.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
C. O. DeRiemer
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Take a piece of Akira Kurosawa, blend in a big portion of Sergio Leone, then add a little of Mel Brooks on Xanax and you'll have an idea of one of the oddest and most amusing examples of chanbara satire. The "sword-fighting movies" from Japan nearly collapsed under the weight of cliches, just as American "gun-fighting" westerns nearly bit the dust in the U.S. Kihachi Okamoto piles on the cliches in this tale taken from the same source material as Sanjuro. While elements of the plot are described, it's not the plot that's too important, but what Okamoto does with it. You might have a hard time afterwards watching some of those popular Italian westerns with a straight face (or even some of Kurosawa's eastern westerns).
Two ragged men, one a former samurai, Genta (Tatsuya Nakadai), who is disillusioned and has become a wandering yakuza, and the other, Hanji (Etsushi Takahashi), a farmer who wants to become a samurai, meet by chance in a dusty, decaying village. The two suddenly find themselves in the midst of corruption, betrayal and assassination. They wind up fighting rival gangs and, sometimes, each other. Along the way we encounter the loving cliches of samurai flicks as well as the loving cliches from Italian westerns...all that running back and forth, noble love, beatings, the really evil villain...as well as pratfalls, a monk who seems to be channeling William Hickey, a flying finger that lands on the ground right in front of the camera and probably the scrawniest chicken ever to have a major role in the movies.
The year is 1833 when Japan's rigid class system was decaying. Tatsuya Nakadai as Genta is marvelous as the quizzical and disillusioned ex-samurai who long ago had enough of the posturing and false honor of his class. He has no intention of being a hero, yet he finds himself against his better judgment being drawn into a clan battle between corruption on one side and naivety on the other. He also is a realist. "Kill or be killed," he says at one point, "either would leave an unpleasant aftertaste." Almost as good is Etsushi Takahashi as Hanji. He may only be a farmer, but Hanji is tired of that back-breaking work. He sold his land and bought a samurai's outfit with the two swords. If he can become a samurai, he knows honor will be close behind. Hanji is energetic and impressed with titles. When the two meet, they make an odd-couple team, even if at a various times Hanji is determined to stick a sword through Genta's chest.
Two-thirds of the way through the movie, however, Okamoto lets the cliches regain their rightful power. The laughs are few and far between as battles are fought between muskets and swords (the swords lose), a good man dies and a fight to the death takes place between Genta and an evil usurper. We're left with the carnage of dead samurai, caused by betrayal and suspicion..and with Genta's comment to Hanji, "Now do you understand what samurai are like?"
Wait, there's more. This is a satire, after all. Our last view is of the two men, one a realist and the other now also a realist, leaving the village. They're followed by the admiring young women of the town's one pleasure house, all determined to journey with them. That leaves the scrawny chicken, strutting around and pecking in the dust, unimpressed with all that has just occurred.
This Criterion DVD is part of the Rebel Samurai four-movie set. It can be bought separately. There are no extras to speak of except for an overblown written essay on the movie that comes in the case.