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May 3, 2010 | by  | in Film |
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We are introduced to Goemon (Eguchi Yosuke) as the Robin Hood of sixteenth-century Japan, putting his ninja training to use, robbing from the aristocratic classes and giving to the poor. Goemon also has something of Jack Sparrow about him: he likes the drink, he likes the ladies and he appears not to have a care in the world (much to the dismay of his greedy sidekick Sasuke). However, when he inadvertently gets a little boy’s mother killed, Goemon is beset with pangs of conscience, related to his own orphaned upbringing. Goemon’s backstory reveals a deep-seated rivalry with Saiko, the only shinobi who can match him. A darker tone is struck. With Sasuke and kid in tow, he sets off on a path in which he must negotiate love interests, political intrigues and prevent a catastrophic war. Life as a semi-professional ass-kicker is not as carefree as one might hope.

To be honest, stories about corrupt, back-stabbing, war-mongering aristocrats are a dime-a-dozen in Asian cinema. The incorporation of an anime-style “two superpowers collide” narrative does little to deflect from the predictable story arc on offer here. One is also quickly inured to the Matrix-style fight scenes between Goemon and Saiko—once certain immutable laws of physics are broken, the tension that comes from putting characters in real danger is somewhat deflated. Historically accurate, Goemon is not. If you roll your eyes at the sight of a man jumping fifty metres in the air, taking out ten goons with a single well-placed sword-chop, or riding a horse directly down a cliff face, this is probably not the movie for you.

On the other hand, the radical makeover of the historical epic genre is really something to see. Putting years of music video training to work on ye olden timey Japan, Kiriya (Casshern) brings the traditional visual feast of the costume drama to life using what must have been an army of digital artists. This stylisation is rather wonderful—each character is able to inhabit a stylised world of their own, painted in vivid colours and soundtracked by Matsumoto Akihiko’s emotion-drenched score. An epic even for jaded eyes.

Directed by: Kiriya Kazuaki

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