128 Min | Drama | September 2011
IMDB Rating: 7.3
Director: Takashi Miike
Starring: Koji Yakusho, Munetaka Aoki, Naoto Takenaka
Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai Review: HARA-KIRI DEATH OF A SAMURAI is Takashi Miike’s follow-up to the crowd-pleasing, SEVEN SAMURAI-alike, 13 ASSASSINS. This film is a whole different kettle of fish entirely and it’s almost as if Miike went deliberately out of his way to make an anti-13 ASSASSINS, there’s no action here, none of the wonderfully choreographed fight scenes that made his previous film such a smash.
Instead, HARA-KIRI is an intense and emotional drama that explores notions of honour, familial ties and duty, packaging it in such a way that makes HARA-KIRI DEATH OF A SAMURAI a unique movie. As with most Miike, it’s a sometimes obscure, often unwieldy production, deliberately going out of its way to be as slow-paced as possible and letting the story unfold in real time. Flashbacks are used extensively and those looking for an explosive, revenge-fuelled drama would do well to seek elsewhere as this isn’t satisfying in that way at all.
Instead, HARA-KIRI DEATH OF A SAMURAI is a unique beast. The first 30 minutes is completely horrifying, a grisly ordeal that nearly manages to outdo PASSION OF THE Christ in its depiction of on screen suffering and pain. The rest of the film is a slow burner, although it does build up to an effective climax of sorts. The actors are well accomplished, with the excellent Ebizo Ichikawa holding the fort for much of the time. Needless to say, the level of technical proficiency is high and the film as a whole is expertly made, the intense drama of the characters’ ordeals makes it one of Miike’s most mature works yet.