Playing on demand at Fantasia International Film Festival, Crazy Samurai Musashi might be one of the most ambitious films I’ve ever seen. It’s not a major blockbuster by any means, it’s not going to wow with visual effects, or amaze with its writing, but it might be one of the best fight scenes in movie history.
There’s not much of a story for this film; it starts with members of the Yoshioka clan preparing to repel a master swordsman, Musashi (Tak Sakaguchi), who is coming to wipe them out. In order to prepare for his arrival, they’ve gathered a small army of warriors. Despite this, Musashi has managed to sneak through their forces and eliminate his target; however, to get away, he has to fight past this army. This begins a single take fight that lasts more than 70 minutes, in which the lone swordsman has to fight more than 400 people. Like I said, ambitious.
The fight is pretty amazing, and is incredibly gruelling to watch as it’s clear Sakaguchi is absolutely knackered by the end. There are quieter moments throughout this scene where he stops to grab a drink and rest for a moment, and you can see him panting for breath, and sweat dripping off him as he’s genuinely worn out from fighting for so long.
Whilst it’s impressive from a technical point of view, there are some moments where the action drags. When Musashi is surrounded by a dozen or more fighters and is fending off their attacks for several minutes before dispatching them it can get a bit repetitive. The film tries to combat this by shifting the setting, moving the action through an abandoned town, or by occasionally throwing in some characters for him to go up against, usually with a stand out weapon, or a brief bit of dialogue to go along with the fight. These moments prove to be the saving grace of the sequence, and stop it becoming boring.
After this giant single take there is a jump in the story, and we get to see the character a number of years later, in a more traditional fight, complete with edits and cuts. After seeing the previous fight this feels so much more dynamic, and has a speed and energy the other scene was lacking. If the rest of the film had been like this, the overall effect would have been a lot more entertaining.
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I honestly don’t know how I feel about this movie. Yes, it’s incredibly impressive, and probably shows a more realistic approach to a sword fight than any other film has done. However, this doesn’t necessarily make it completely entertaining, and does make an argument that editing is needed to make action sequences better.
For action fans, and anyone who likes Samurai movies, this is definitely worth a watch, and will be unlike any other film you’re likely to see.
Crazy Samurai Musashi is playing on demand at Fantasia International Film Festival, which runs 20th August – 2nd September 2020.