Takashi Miike’s Blade of the Immortal has the odd moment of flair, but this does not save it from its plodding pace.
After seeking revenge for his sister, injured warrior Manji is cursed with immortal life. Years later, a young girl asks Manji to help her in her quest to find those who killed her family…
The classic revenge narrative is given a supernatural twist in this Samurai film, based on a manga series. Blade of the Immortal sets the scene with a black and white, ultra violent opening gambit. It then settles into a more natural pace, as the main narrative is introduced.
The story is a quintessential one, yet it is difficult to get behind the protagonists. Rin is introduced fairly quickly. Although it is clear why she wishes to avenge her family, the character is not developed sufficiently for the audience to fully empathise with her. Likewise, Manji is understandably weary, yet there is little else to his character.
The various subplots that are introduced as the film progresses weigh momentum down. Whilst they give the protagonists additional foes, these additional characters hinder pacing too much. In the second half of the film in particular, it simply takes too long to reach the climax. This renders the extended final action scene feel more listless than energetic.
Revenge is main theme in Blade of the Immortal, but the supernatural aspect gives rise to the additional subject of world-weariness. This becomes a driving force within Manji. The moments of humour are welcome. Costumes in the film are good, as is the fight choreography.
Hana Sugisaki’s Rin is annoying at times; the high-pitched squeals could have been toned down. Takuya Kimora delivers suitable performance whilst it would have been great to see more of Yôko Yamamoto.
Blade of the Immortal has some good moments, but its leaden pacing undermines overall enjoyment.
Blade of the Immortal is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2017.