WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 63

Let's see what I saw this week for Weekend Wrental Wreviews in my 63rd WWW:

1) Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in the Land of Demons:
The fifth film based on the manga finds Ogami Itto and his son Daigoro back on the road. After the injuries he sustained battling his archenemy Retsudo at the end of the fourth movie, I wasn't sure what condition our hero would be in. Japanese culture continues to baffle me as a clan intent on hiring the assassin send several messengers to test him, knowing that Itto's success will mean their death. Each one carries another piece of the message, until he has his complete assignment. The clan's honor is at stake, with the daughter of their previous leader masquerading as her brother, the true successor. This is one of the darker films in the series as we see how soulless a killer Itto can be. I thought his personal experience might give him pause, and at one point in the movie he actually spares someone. It could be a turning point for a man who considers himself and his son to always be at the crossroads to Hell, but sooner or later a road must be chosen. Spiritual matters, family tragedy, nor masked warriors can stay the blade of the deadly ronin, much to Retsudo's fury. Once Itto has accepted an assignment, he sees it through to the end.

2) Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell:
The sixth and final film in this series is on par with many of the others, though not as final as I would have liked. I had made the mistake of reading how the manga ended, so I suppose I should be grateful that I didn't spoil the film series by doing so. Retsudo's actions finally catch up to him as he faces disgrace for continually allowing Ogami Itto to slip through his grasp. The Yagyu patriarch has already lost three sons, but now sends his daughter and her deadly knife juggling technique against Ogami Itto's deadly Suioryu “horse-slaying” style. The film has a certain finality as our protagonist's visit the grave of Itto's wife and Daigoro's mother, with a few clips of her demise from the first film thrown in to remind us why father and son live the life that they do. The baby cart is in full effect, with guns that penetrate concrete, hidden blades, and Itto's bladed staff all making their last appearance. Retsudo is so desperate, he even turns to an illegitimate son living in the woods with a fairly creepy clan. The son refuses to kill the ronin for his father, but pursues him in the name of his own adopted clan. Their technique includes burying warriors alive for well over a month, a ritual they believe creates beings above life and death. Though not actual zombies, they're still pretty resilient, and pretty scary as they kill from the shadows and burrow underground like serpents. Itto continues to be a master strategist, and while his enemies' technique of instilling fear by killing all the innocents around their target initially works, he once again proves that choosing where to fight can greatly improve one's odds. And so we go North, to a snowy plain where burrowing underground is no longer an advantage. Ever the master of overkill, Retsudo soon follows with a full army in tow. We get to see ski-attachments on the baby cart and we see snow stained red with blood. In the end, this one concludes much like the others in the series. I liked that they managed to keep the same cast through six films. Harry Potter will end up with eight films, which I though was unprecedented, but then here's this samurai series from the ‘70s. I wonder if more were planned, but except for one loose end, this did seem to be wrapping things up. As I understand it, there was a 78-episode television series with different actors that covered the books more completely. Thematically, the balance of the stern, stone-faced killer and his curious little boy was a good one. The killer-with-child motif would pop up again in the coming decades, in films such as The Professional or more recently Kick-Ass. It's a nice juxtaposition that humanizes a killer while raising the stakes and giving him someone to protect and care about, after he's stopped caring about himself. Overall, I'd have to give this series 4-4.5 out of 5 stars.

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




Post a Comment

<< Home