Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance

Based on the manga series by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima, Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance is the story of an assassin who wanders from town to town for whatever job he’s asked to do while he’s accompanying his infant son as he seeks vengeance for the death of his wife. Directed by Kenji Misumi and screenplay by Kazuo Koike, the film is a samurai film where a man tries to protect his child while getting revenge on those who tried to destroy his life and disgrace his name. Starring Tomisaburo Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa, Fumio Watanabe, and Shigeru Tsuyuguchi. Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance is a gripping and exhilarating film from Kenji Misumi.

Set during the Edo era of Japan, the film revolves around an assassin-for-hire who was once a revered executioner until his wife was murdered and was then accused of a crime by a clan leader and an investigator leading him to become a ronin. It’s a film that play into a man as he treks through parts of rural Japan as he is willing to work as an assassin as long as he gets paid while raising his young son. The film’s screenplay by Kazuo Koike is straightforward with some flashbacks about the life of Ogami Itto (Tomisaburo Wakayama) and his infant son Daigoro (Akihiro Tomikawa) as he would have him on a cart during their trips as they trek through small towns and castles as they would be hired by a chamberlain to kill a clan leader and his gang of thieves and bandits in a remote village near a hot spring spa pool. There he deals with these bandits but doesn’t attack them in order to be their hostage until things eventually become complicated as he also thinks about the past

Kenji Misumi’s direction does have a lot of unique style in terms of the presentation as well as creating something that stray from the conventions of a revenge film. Shot in these rural locations in Japan in the woods and in nearby locations of old castles, Misumi presents this world of a man living during the Edo period of Japan as it play into a moment in time when everyone worked for some clan or has a role relating to top clans in Japan. The role that Itto has is an executioner as the first scene of the film has him preparing the execution of a child who is the lord of a clan as it’s a role that Itto takes seriously and with pride though it has made him an enemy among other clans. Especially for one who has his wife killed but also puts a tablet in his small temple that makes him a criminal leading to a showdown with the investigator and his army.

Misumi’s usage of wide and medium shots aren’t just about capturing the locations but also the scope of some of the battles and how Itto handles those who try to kill him with the aid of fight choreographer Eiichi Kusumoto in showing how samurai warriors take careful steps into attacking someone as Misumi would use tracking shots and wide angles to capture where Itto is at as well as what he does to slay an attacker. Misumi also creates some stylish imagery as it play into the path Itto and his son are on including a flashback as its usage of close-ups and medium shot shows the path that Daigoro has chosen as it would relate to a scene of Itto watching two boys playing with a ball. There is also this air of intrigue that occur in the third act as it relates to Itto’s growing reputation as this mysterious ronin with others not knowing his true identity. The violence of the film is stylized with blood squirting out and body parts dismembered as it play into the brutality of samurai sword-fighting as well as Itto’s resolve to do what is necessary to survive and live for his son. Overall, Misumi crafts a riveting and evocative film about a ronin samurai warrior trekking through Edo-period Japan as an assassin-for-hire with his infant son.

Cinematographer Chikashi Makiura does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography in capturing some of gorgeous colors of the daytime exterior scenes as well as use low-key available light for scenes in the right and low-key lighting from Hiroshi Mima for some of the scenes set at night. Editor Toshio Taniguchi does excellent work with the editing as it has elements of style in its usage of jump-cuts, slow-motion shots, and other stylish cuts that help play into the action and suspense. Production designer Akira Naito does amazing work with the look of the places that Itto goes to including his old home and the house near the hot spring water pool and the design of the cart itself.

The sound work of Tsuchitaro Hayashi, with sound effects by Toru Kurashima, is fantastic for its sound work that include some creative sound effects for some of the sword swings and how body parts sound when they get dismembered. The film’s music by Hideaki Sakurai is incredible for its mixture of traditional Japanese percussive, woodwind, and string instrument flourishes with some grimy electric guitars to help set a mood for the scene as well as maintain that eerie air of discomfort throughout the film.

The film’s superb ensemble cast features some notable small roles from Keiko Fujita as Itto’s wife Azami, Reiko Kasahara as a madwoman who believes Daigoro is her son, Shigeru Tsuyuguchi and Yunosuke Ito as members of the Yagyu clan that has brought trouble to Itto, Fumio Watanabe as the aging Yagyu clan leader Bizen-no-kami who wants to destroy Itto’s life, Tomoko Mayama as the prostitute Osen who is treated with kindness by Itto, and Akihiro Tomikawa as Itto’s young son Daigoro who observes everything his father does while joining him on this journey of uncertainty. Finally, there’s Tomisaburo Wakayama in a phenomenal performance as Ogami Itto as a once-revered executioner who goes into a path of uncertainty as an assassin for hire as he copes with the death of his wife and being disgraced by rival clans as it is a performance of restraint but also terror whenever he’s being confronted as it is a fierce and chilling performance from Wakayama.

Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance is a sensational film from Kenji Misumi that features an incredible leading performance from Tomisaburo Wakayama. Along with its ensemble cast, gorgeous visuals, eerie music score, and story of vengeance and ideals. It’s a samurai film that doesn’t play by convention in order to study a man’s path of loss and disgrace as he tries to find redemption and justice for what he’s lost. In the end, Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance is a spectacular film from Kenji Misumi.

Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River StyxBaby Cart to HadesBaby Cart in PerilBaby Cart in the Land of DemonsWhite Heaven in Hell

© thevoid99 2020


Brittani Burnham said...

This sounds interesting and looking at IMDb it seems they made several movies around this character.

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-There's six films in the series and so far, I've seen half of the series as it's definitely worth seeking out.