Fantasia Film Festival Review: BUSHIDO MAN!!
With the ever-increasing presence of computer generated imagery and special effects in today’s cinema, even the most action packed films have lost a bit of their adventure. The low budget martial arts film BUSHIDO MAN seems to be making an attempt to eradicate this unsettling trend with this tremendously fun little flick. The story follows Toramaru (Mitsuki Koga) who is on a pilgrimage at the request of his master, Gensai,(Yoshiyuki Yamaguchi) to obtain scrolls from seven masters of different martial art disciplines. Toramaru must do battle with masters of Kung-Fu, Staff, Sword, Nunchaku, Knife, Gun…and the “special weapon.” It does sound a bit like Ash trying to earn his badges at all the gyms in POKEMON, but BUSHIDO MAN is surprisingly clever and provide some of the most impressive fight sequences in recent memory..
The title of the film comes from the word meaning “The code of honor and morals developed by the Japanese samurai,” and Toramaru’s code of honor includes the teachings of Gensai, that in order to truly understand his enemy, he must dine in the same way of his enemies. In place of a training montage a la ROCKY IV, we’re given beautiful sequences of Toramaru dining on some of the tastiest looking dishes as preparation for the fights to come. The script is refreshingly humorous, and the combination of all three facets creates a kinship that works successfully. Comedy? Food? Martial Arts? Oh yeah, this is a movie difficult not to love.
BUSHIDO MAN is jam packed with action, and the fight sequences are un-freaking-believable. I genuinely cannot speak more highly of the fight choreography; it’s that impressive. The combat director/choreographer, Sonomura Kensuke, is a genius because the fights are seamlessly executed and each of the disciplines has truly mastered their craft. Much like SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD, it was refreshing to see Toramaru’s fighting skills elevate with every battle, and the man is a very talented fighter. Kensuke did not hold back with his fight sequences and there is a harmonious combination of big “this one’s for the cheap seats” battle sequences as well as hairpin precision right before the opponent’s eyes. I love a strongly choreographed fight sequence, and Kensuke’s choreography tells a powerful tale.
Director Tsujimoto Takanori must be hailed as a director, because anyone with the ability to capture those beautiful fight sequences without missing a beat is deserving of accolade. The eye never once loses focus or is “distracted” by the fighting, and his camera work adds an interesting pace that is immediately instilled from the first frame until the last. BUSHIDO MAN restore faith in action films, and is cinematic proof that the budget does not make the movie.