Get your bathroom break in before you sit down to watch Crazy Samurai, my friends. Once you press 'play', there isn't much time before the swords start swinging. This film is tagged '400 vs. 1' for a good reason. Yes, that's a lot of swords and director Yûji Shimomura squeezes pretty much all of them into one elaborate, exquisite, exhausting 77-minute single-take sequence. Kudos on that, Yûji.
Crazy Samurai: 400 vs. 1 (AKA Crazy Samurai Musashi)
Starring Tak Sakaguchi, Kento Yamazaki, Yôsuke Saitô, Ben Hiura, Arata Yamanaka, Fuka Hara, Kôsei Kimura, Nobu Morimoto, Akihiko Sai, and Masaaki Takarai
Written by Atsuki Tomori
Directed by Yûji Shimomura
Unrated but contains 91 minutes of almost non-stop violence
Runtime: 91 minutes
Now available on Blu-Ray, DVD, digital and video on demand
And thus ends most of the praise for this authentic Japanese retelling of Miyamoto Musashi, a Buddhist swordsman, philosopher, strategist, writer and rōnin who lived approximately 400 years ago. Wiki-ing him tells me that he became legendary for his unique double-bladed swordsmanship and undefeated record in 61 duels, making him a Kensei, a sword-saint of Japan, which is just about the coolest thing that I've ever heard. He developed a style of swordsmanship called Niten Ichi-ryū, basically using two swords at the same time, which is I guess the second coolest thing I've ever heard.
In this movie, Musashi (played by Tak Sakaguchi) uses mostly one sword and it gets quite a workout, reportedly tallying 588 opponents felled on screen. That being said, I'm uncertain why it wasn't called Crazy Samurai: 588 vs. 1 but that's neither here nor there.
The plot revolves around how the Yoshioka family attempts to exact their revenge against Musashi after he attacked them at their dojo in 1604. The family assembles 100 of its sword-wielding cousins along with 300 additional samurai in its hyperbolic efforts to preserve its honour and show him who's boss. If you don't already understand the title, that revenge does not go well.
Here, watch the trailer so you can get a sense of things for yourself: youtube.com/watch?v=W43huBXYwu8.
It's a battle royale and a bloody one at that. While I can appreciate the incredible true life story that absolutely begs for a movie version very much like this, I have to wonder if perhaps there was a better way to go about it, one that might have done more to serve the incredible story. What we get is impressive, yes, but also somewhat predictable... boring even. There, I said it. Without taking anything away from what must have been a demanding series of rehearsals for such elaborate fighting choreography, I'm the one guy in the audience who would have preferred just a bit more dialogue, even a touch of plot or even some character studies in order to flesh out the emotional impact of such an event. These razor-edged proceedings came off rather dull if you ask me.