(FANTASIA 2020) FILM REVIEW: CRAZY SAMURAI MUSASHI is a 77-minute long one-take samurai showdown powered by the charisma of it’s leading man.


Director Yûji Shimomura crafts this largely one-cut film experiment based on legendary Japanese swordman Musashi completely around the talent and on-screen charisma of it’s lead, cult film hero Tak Sakaguchi (Versus) and it delivers a unique experience.

Last year, one of the most buzzed-about Asian film festival gems was ONE CUT OF THE DEAD. Directed by Shin’ichirô Ueda, the film is largely built on the deconstruction of a 37-minute long one-shot zombie attack. Through clever-writing, we find that there are many layers to this undead onion and the film delivers a lot based on that one-take attack sequence.

It’s difficult to say whether director Yûji Shimomura took some inspiration from that film in crafting CRAZY SAMURAI MUSASHI, his follow-up to RE:BORN, also featuring Tak Sakaguchi (Battlefield Baseball, Why Don’t You Go Play In Hell) as its lead. What Shimomura and writer Sion Sono craft here with MUSASHI is, on its face, an interesting film experiment; a film that is largely a feature-length one-cut battle sequence. In many ways, it is reminiscent of the House of Blue Leaves sequence in Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 1 by way of the hammer fight in Park Chan-Wook’s Old Boy. In CRAZY SAMURAI MUSASHI, Sakaguchi plays Musashi, a Samurai who has killed the head of the Yoshioka clan, Seijuro. The clan, now lead by a small boy named Matashichiro, has vowed revenge and along with the help of 100 students and 300 mercenaries, put a force of 588 warriors up against the lone blade of Musashi. Musashi, being driven to win at all costs, doesn’t shy away from the challenge. Even as Yoshioka clan member Chisuke (Yamasaki Kento) questions whether the clan needs mercenaries to take revenge for Seijuro, Musashi starts making short work of the clan’s warriors and mercenaries as we follow Musashi for over an hour. From the wilderness, through an abandoned feudal village, it’s one long never-ending battle as Musashi disposes of samurai after samurai placed before him.

It’s to Shimomura’s credit that Sakaguchi throws himself into the role with aplomb. The movie lives or dies by his on-screen presence and thankfully his on-screen charisma is enough to keep the viewer invested and rooting for him. Musashi works his way through hordes of nameless samurai to face mercenaries with more exotic weaponry who put up more of a challenge, all leading to a showdown with the higher-ranking members of the clan. There is only death as a pathway to escape, and Musashi is making sure his death isn’t the one that will set him free.

While the spectacle and audacity of the idea of the film are to be commended, there are some holes in the premise. With such an extended one-cut sequence, the action can get to be repetitive, and that happens here as well. While Sakaguchi breaks up the fights by ducking for cover or drink, and Shimomura stages some in-fighting between clansmen while Musashi rests or skulks for cover, the action tends to get a little video-gamey in scope. Musashio\ takes on each samurai one by one and the viewer finds themselves thinking if he were only rushed by a group of two or three, this would all be over so quickly. While it is unavoidable, the use of CGI blood and the bodies that disappear conveniently out of shot become a distraction because of the length of the fight, as does the natural lighting look of the film itself, shot with a digital camera. That being said, Shimomura is an experienced stunt director, and the fights themselves are visually interesting and compelling as Musashi tires from the non-stop onslaught of samurais out to get him. That being said, Shimomura is a talented director, and a scene set 7 years after the battle, showcases his eye and detail working together with a very compelling showpiece that makes you wonder how the film might have looked like if shot and edited conventionally. Regardless, its a fun and audacious experiment of an action movie, and if you’re down to see a badass samurai mow down 588 people for an hour and a half, this is the movie for you.