Japanese pop idol Takuya Kimura delivers a thrillingly satiric but committed performance in samurai action-adventure Blade of the Immortal, the hundredth film helmed by cult filmmaker Takashi Miike (Audition, Izo). Kimura uses deadpan line readings and expertly timed pregnant pauses to simultaneously mock and dramatize the macho pride that defines Manji (Kimura), an emotionally constipated samurai who was cursed by a witch and now has Wolverine-like powers of self-healing.
Kimura skillfully pivots from emotional extremes throughout Manji’s blood-soaked quest to kill anyone who threatens Rin (Hana Sugisaki), a teenage orphan who reminds Manji of his dead sister, Machi (also Sugisaki). First you laugh when, trying to prove his loyalty by giving her an opponent’s sword, Manji matter-of-factly tells Rin, “Sorry…I got blood on it.” Then, before you can catch your breath, Kimura and Sugisaki remind us of the tragic nature of their characters’ relationship by staring forlornly at each other. Kimura runs an emotional gamut in the short time he takes to apologize and then stand quietly for a few extra seconds.
Kimura’s slightly tongue-in-cheek performance gives emotional resonance to Manji’s macho struggle to treat Rin as a partner, especially when Kimura sighs theatrically at Sugisaki as Rin vows to protect Manji from a brutal lady assassin. After some quick but memorable fidgeting, Kimura lets Sugisaki talk over him long enough to deliver Blade of the Immortal’s most rousing declamatory speech. Come for the gory swordplay, stay for the half-serious melodrama.
Blade of the Immortal
Directed by Takashi Miike
Opens November 3, Quad Cinema