Fantasia International Film Festival: Crazy Samurai Mushashi (2020) reviewed by Jonathan Berk

Director Yûji Shimomura’s movie Crazy Samurai Mushashi (2020) is an ambitious action film in many respects – but a little repetitive, taking the air out of it a bit. It’s yet another film that utilizes the long take in a way that draws attention to itself and is even ambitious and impressive at times. However, it’s not the cinematography that gets the most from this, but rather the lead actor – Tak Sakaguchi as Mushashi – who has to fight for the majority of the film’s run time. 

The story of this film is secondary to the action, which is understandable, but there are more significant issues overall. The character the audience is watching fight the Yoshioka clan is treated as a monster. The opening segment of the film sets up the clan preparing a rouse to get Mushashi out so they and the mercenaries they’ve hired can kill him. He has killed their previous two leaders, and now a child is in the role. Yet, the rest of the film follows Mushahsi, and there is never an explanation as to why he wants to destroy this particular clan. It seems as though he should have been in the role of the protagonist, as not rooting for him as he takes on wave after wave of people is near impossible. 

Despite the issues with the story, the main event is impossible not to be impressed by. For over 70 minutes, there are no cuts. The fighting has some breaks built-in…but when one thinks of the amount of choreography that was needed to pull off this epic oner, it boggles the mind. There are so many people – at least 400, according to the film’s poster – that Mushahsi takes on. Not to mention the countless bottles of water, he sips and spits throughout the battle… so… many… casualties. The downside of this being a samurai battle for this long is that the scenes get very redundant. There is at least a ten or twelve-minute sequence towards the end that moves back and forth between two sets, and it almost feels like you’re watching it on a loop. Sword slaps sword and then swats a dude on the head. Repeat. It was hard not getting a little bored with the film as time went on. 

Overall, Crazy Samurai Mushashi is an impressive film. It starts strong, and the action sequences flow much like a video game with clear “boss fights” popping up at appropriate moments. However, the repetitive nature of the fights starts to wear on one’s attention span. The film earns the Decent Watch rating with a bit of a nudge towards Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy, for the challenge the filmmakers and cast faced. 

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