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Bushido Man: Seven Deadly Battles
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Eat and Fight.
Upon returning from a pilgrimage across Japan, the warrior Toramaru arrives with tales of seven epic battles against Japans most legendary fighters. As Toramarus philosophy dictates that he know the enemy by eating his food, each masterfully-choreographed fight is preceded by a helping of his preys favorite dish.
Designated successor to Master Gensai and leading proponent of the all-round martial-arts discipline, The Cosmic Way, Toramaru tells the tales of The Seven Deadly Battles as Master Gensai eagerly listens to the lavish and violent details of Toramarus adventures.
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First, you are probably asking yourself what a Japanese film has to do with Kung Fu. Well, it is actually a nod (I fall short of calling it an homage) to the old seventies classic Kung Fu films where highly choreographed and acrobatic fights, not to mention horribly over acted dialog, was absolutely expected. Hang with me on this because I am not criticizing the film the same way you may think.
THE PLOT: Toramaru has returned from a pilgrimage across Japan as instructed by his martial arts master Gensai. He relates to Gensai the details of each fight he encounters, but makes Master Gensai guess which fighting style was used each time by describing his pre-fight meal. You see, Toramaru believes he gains inspiration for a fight by eating a food that somehow relates to his opponent. The purpose of this pilgrimage is to defeat and gain knowledge from the masters of different styles. Toramaru also confiscates a scroll from each fighter that contains the essence of each style.
Ok, so it sounds a little silly so far with the food and all, but it's supposed to be a little silly right! The movie starts out on a reasonably serious note with a bucolic fall day depicting Toramaru's return to the Jinja or Dojo where his master resides. So far the audience is just thinking this is a slightly bad B movie throwback to those seventies movies I mentioned. The acting is B movie quality so it's not entirely obvious that it's intentionally bad in my opinion. I also speak Japanese, but I don't think that aided me in my perception. The vocal tone of Toramaru and Master Gensai are reasonably serious for a B movie. However, each situation builds on itself. The master becomes less serious and more animated (rather than reserved as one would expect). The fighting styles become more off the wall. The food is the first hint and by the Nunchaku encounter the audience should have a clue. Unfortunately, it's easy to chock that scene up to an anomaly and a little comic relief. Once it gets to the Western gun fighting style you really should know something is going on! Things are completely crazy and off the wall by the final battle. It's a bit of a tongue in cheek poke at the audience as the movie reveals that it is laughing at you, and the old fight films, just as much as it's laughing with you. I admit, I started out through the first few encounters thinking this was just a horrible homage to old fight films and was inclined to give it one star. The more I realized what was going on, the more stars I considered giving it. It's not the first film to do this, so not that original in that sense, but clever.
If you had told me there would be a western gun fight in this movie I probably would have skipped it altogether. However, that was actually one of the funniest, most redeeming parts of the movie. Things get pretty kooky in the end and you might find yourself staring with your mouth hanging open at one point. I feel those billing this show as a terrific fight sequence flick are also pulling the wool over your eyes a bit. It's semi serious in a B movie way at times, but those are not the point and not nearly as interesting as the comedy of it all. This movie is really only good where it is funny in my opinion. The joke is on us, but not in a malicious way. The movie morphs from a bad example of one type of movie into a modestly good example of something very different. Frankly, I don't know how the professional reviews are missing this. If you can't appreciate the silliness or clever twist, this movie is probably not for you. I appreciate several moments of the movie and it's interesting jab at the viewer. But honestly, I don't know if it was for me either. I still kinda want my time back. You may want to stick with a rental if you remain interested.
In the film, Taramaru returns to his master after visiting several other masters in various disciplines. It was Taramaru's mission to challenge and beat them, so he could gather up their scrolls, which chronicles the particulars of their styles. The majority of the film has Taramaru humorously describing what he ate before he challenged each master, then he fights them. The idea being, that you will know your opponent by what he eats. This helps Taramaru get inside their heads, so later on, when he fights them, he can mimic what they do in order to win the fight.
Most of the fights were filmed fairly well and included a Kung Fu Master, a Stick Master, a Nun Chuck master, a Sword Master, a Yakuza Knife Fighter, a Gun Master, and another discipline I can only describe as a Gun Fu Master. During each of the fights, Taramaru watches and learns from his opponents so he can eventually defeat them. Some of the fights were more serious than others, but the film doesn't take itself too seriously. In fact, the Nun Chuck Fight turned out to be more of a joke, and the Gun Master was a ridiculous wannabe cowboy, who holstered a six shooter at his side. In any case, the film still managed to put on a good show. And it did add a "trick" ending.
I have to admit that I enjoyed this film. It was a Martial Arts comedy of sorts. And the martial arts were really the highlight here. The story is almost nonexistent, but there is still enough to hold the film together. In a way, this film reminded me of High Kick Girl, where Kei (played by Rina Takeda) goes around challenging other fighters. In Bushido Man however, Taramaru's motives are a lot more honorable. In High Kick Girl, Kei mainly wanted to prove that she was better than everyone else for selfish reasons. The biggest difference in Bushido Man though were the fights, which were filmed a lot better than they were in High Kick Girl. And we're spared all the annoying slow-mo instant replays which really killed that film.
The strongest battles in Bushido Man would have to be the Kung Fu Fight, Stick Fight and the Yakuza Knife Fight. Those were the three disciplines that packed the most punches. I also liked how the Kung Fu fight focused on the Mantis Style. It reminded me of the Mantis style fights from the HK classics. The Gun Fu Fight was also good and was a little on the crazy side. It reminded me of the Gonzo film Machine Girl, only without all the excessive, bloody violence. And it happened to be the only fight which included a female master.
The film is presented in Japanese with English subtitles. Or if you don't like subtitles, there's also an English dub track. But again the dialogue and the story are not the main draw here. This film is mostly about the action.
In the end, I gave the film four stars. It had great fights, humor, and came up with some creative ideas for the opponents. But this is in no way the best martial arts film I've ever seen. In the end, Bushido man is mostly a popcorn film, where you can sit back and enjoy some well-choreographed fights. A good pick if you like martial arts films in general or if you just want something fun to watch on a lazy afternoon. Worth checking out.
I'll watch it again!
It looked to me like they couldn't decide what kind of movie this was supposed to be or changed their mind as the project progressed...or maybe they didn't even think that far ahead and just filmed whatever they felt like that day.
And only people without firearms experience would think having your exposed hand right next to a muzzle blast would be OK. :)
1st of all this is not top knotch kung-fu. I will not spoil it for u by describing the battles. still please believe me when I say this movie is worth seeing. If not anything else even though there are only 2 good fight scenes I bet you'll be e-mailing you're friends to talk about this movie. please feel free to give me you're opinion. I would like to know what you think.
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