An immortal samurai (Takuya Kimura) takes a young girl (Hana Sugisaki) under his wing in Takashi Miike’s 100th film. That’s 11 times as many as Tarantino has made over the same time period, and 12 times as many as Michael Owen has ever watched.
The prolific Japanese director adapts Hiroaki Samura’s manga with his usual unusualness and a level of excess befitting a man who makes four films per year. Rather like Kill Bill, there isn’t a story so much as a series of ultra-violent fight scenes. And as vividly executed as these are, they quickly grow repetitive.
As a premise it’s oddly similar to the most recent Wolverine movies, with whom the protagonist shares his regenerative superpowers. 2013’s Japan-set The Wolverine even incorporated a samurai element, while this year’s Logan had our mutant hero looking after a little girl. Unfortunately the impressive Sugisaki is given little to do, making this less Leon and more switch-off.
Like Logan, Blade of the Immortal builds a believable world around the visceral action. But where James Mangold brought the comic book characters into something resembling the real world, Miike brings those manga panels to life. He delivers two hours of stunning photography, crunching sound design and a staggering body count. And by the 100th fight scene, you don’t feel a thing.
Perhaps that’s not true for fans of the source material but for those of us who think manga is some kind of tropical fruit, this one’s a little too ripe. One thing’s for sure though: Miike knows his way around a bloodbath. Here’s to the next 100!