“Blade of the Immortal” is a pretty good title for a samurai movie.
I’ve got a better one:
That’s the approximate body count (and I could be low on this) racked up by Manji (Takuya Kimura), the swordsman hero of the movie.
With a slice slice here and a hack chop there, here a stab, there a spear, everywhere a gash/rip, Manji dispatches foes by the boatload in what I daresay is the most violent samurai epic ever struck off by the hand of man.
The man in this case is director Takashi Miike, a superprolific — this is his 100th movie — Japanese filmmaker who knows a thing or three about the depiction of carnage on screen. (See, for example, “Ichi the Killer.” If you dare.)
Oh, and speaking of the hand of man, Manji’s hands are struck off many times by blades. We’re talking multiple dismemberments, on the order of the Black (“It’s just a flesh wound!”) Knight in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”
Only in Manji’s case, his severed hands and arms and other body bits reattach themselves to his bleeding carcass thanks to the helpful interventions of critters called — natch — bloodworms. Those inner parasites are introduced into him by an 800-year-old witchy woman who condemns him to immortal life. Hence the title.
So he can’t die, but he sure can come close.
He’s a pretty good swordsman, but hardly a great one, and when Miike sics swarms of screaming, blade-wielding extras upon him, they do major damage before he hacks every last one of them down. He nearly dies in awful anguish, but then gets up to do it again.
Is there a plot here? Yes. Vengeance is its driver, as Manji is recruited by a young girl named Rin (Hana Sugisaki) to avenge the deaths of her parents at the hand of Anotsu (Sota Fukushi).
The ice-cold sword master wants to found an elite school of sword craft and slaughters members of all rival schools, including Rin’s dad. All of this is based on a popular manga series by Hiroaki Samura.
Together, Manji and Rin tramp through feudal Japan, constantly beset by armies of killers and also another immortal bad man, Shira (Hayato Ichihara).
The fight with that guy ends with Manji and Shira stuck together like a two-sided pincushion. Well, OK, it doesn’t end there, as both laboriously extract the cutlery from their perforated selves and set to hacking and chopping once again.
Whew! Now that’s entertainment.
Blade of the Immortal
☆☆ 1/2 stars out of 4
Cast: Takuya Kimura, Hana Sugisaki, Hayato Ichihara, Sota Fukushi.
Director: Takashi Miike
Running time: 2:21
Rated: R for bloody violence and carnage throughout. In Japanese, with English subtitles.