WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 59

Let's see what I saw this week for Weekend Wrental Wreviews in my 59th WWW:

1) Lone Wolf & Cub: Sword of Vengeance:
Ogami Itto was an honorable Shoganate executioner. He felt haunted by the spirits of those he sent to death, shockingly taking the life of a young boy at the start of the film. When a corrupt clan turns on him and takes the life of his wife while framing him for disloyalty to the Shogunate, he discards loyalty in favor of vengeance. Ogami becomes a ronin, a masterless samurai, and sets out on the road with the only other surviving member of his family, his infant son Daigoro. I had never read the manga on which the film was based, and oddly enough my first exposure to the concept was in a spoof published in the fourth issue of Marvel's What The--?! entitled “Lone Wolvie and Chris”. Wolverine, dressed as a ronin, pushes a baby cart with a little Chris Claremont inside. When surrounded by ninjas, Claremont begins speaking, creating a growing blank word balloon, until Wolverine slashes it with his claws, unleashing a flood of Claremontian dialogue. It was more highbrow than the usual spoofs, and sparked my curiosity as to what it drew its imagery from. Indeed, the notion of a warrior with a baby cart is a unique one, and definitely the hook of the concept. Ogami doesn't seem like a threat, and the kid is adorable. The ronin even sported a slight double-chin in the film which reminded me of John Belushi's Samurai Futaba. But this was a true traditional Japanese samurai film, so when it came time to draw his blade, Ogami would draw plenty of blood. Throughout the first movie there is plenty of beheading and belimbing and he certainly be stabbing. We see his origins in flashbacks, while in the present he takes on an assignment to take out a gang of criminals who have settled in and terrorized a bathhouse town. His reputation precedes him, but by the time the master of the criminals realizes why he seemed so familiar, they have already been treating him and their hostages with great disrespect. There is great contrast between the father and son. Ogami's eyes are cold and dead, while the boy still has joy, laughter, and curiosity in his. One is dead inside, while the other's life is ahead of him. There were five more films made about these characters, and I look forward to watching them in the coming weeks.

2) The Babysitters:
For some reason, I expected this independent film to take the route of satire, black comedy, or coming-of-age story. But it swiftly goes to some very dark and disturbing places. Katherine Waterston(Sam's daughter) plays Shirley, a shy and awkward high school Junior with OCD. Everything in her life must be neat and in order. As she explains at one point, if any one thing is out of place, then everything is out of place, like setting off a domino reaction. She has a crush on John Leguizamo's character, the father of some kids she babysits for. He still has a youthful spirit not shared by his wife(Cynthia Nixon), who has become a very different person from the girl he met in their youth. And so the movie sets up a very basic cliché, of a girl being attracted to an older man over her immature male classmates, and a man in a mid-life crisis trying to reclaim some part of his youth. Once a line is crossed, and he slips the girl some extra money for her “services”, the movie goes even further into a fantasy scenario, as Shirley eventually becomes a high school madam, pimping herself and her friends out to “babysit” other lonely middle-aged husbands. At first, this seems to be an enterprise without consequence, as the girls discuss their new business in class, not really paying attention to the STD slideshow the teacher is presenting. But there are consequences, from loss of innocence to greed and tension between friends. As things get more and more out of control with drugs and violence, Waterston and the set designers do an excellent job portraying the change in Shirley. Her room becomes as chaotic and disorganized as her thoughts, as she goes from shy and sweet to calculating and ruthless. Leguizamo keeps things low key, though you see his obsession grow, while the other clients are increasingly creepy husbands. It's not a fantasy; it's a corruption, and it all culminates in one very tense scene on the roof of a parking garage. Waterston, around 20 at the time of filming, played a solid lead and held the piece together through her character's arc. I would hope we'll see more of her in the future. The plot may seem contrived at times, and it's not a film I could watch more than once, but it's well-acted and succeeds in creating tension and drama. It's hard to say what lessons each character learns by the climax, but easy enough to recognize that they'll all be scarred for life by their experiences.

More reviews to follow next week after I've spun a few more discs!



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