The early 1800's were a tough time for a samurai. There wasn't much call anymore for skilled warriors. The merchant class was moving up to positions of power. The various lords around the country didn't need and in many cases couldn't afford to have hundreds of retainers. So there were thousands of samurai without employment -- ronin -- who could only hire themselves out, give up their status as samurai and either move down to the merchant class, become criminals, or eke out a living as best they could. Ronin Gai takes place in a small inn and brothel on the outskirts of Tokyo. The characters are the women who work there, the ronin who hang about and who have slipped down into becoming drunks or doing unbecoming work for a samurai, and a group of the Shogun's samurai retainers who have become arrogant murderers, preying on the inn's women.
Eventually one of the women takes a stand, and for her courage she is captured and condemned to be torn apart by oxen. Four of the inn's ronin customers shake themselves out their self pity and find the honor and courage they had seemingly lost. One by one they appear in the forest where the hundred samurai have gathered to enjoy the execution. One by one, then together, they take on the bad guys.
The first two thirds of the movie is an excellent story of the women of the inn and the lives of the ronin around them. The last third is a great sword slashing epic, not too bloody, and full of climaxes and more climaxes. This is a movie that is both exciting and thoughtful. The actors are up to the job. There's Shintaro Katsu as "Bull" Akaushi, a big, slovenly ronin who is part drunk and part bouncer at the inn. He's a blowhard, but a well intentioned one, and during the climax of the movie he finds a way to redeem himself that is brave and startling. There's Yoshio Harada as Gennai Aramaki, all nihilistic self pity but a great swordsman. There's Renji Ishibashi as Horo, reduced to testing the local lord's swords on the corpses of executed criminals and who loves perhaps too much. And there's Kanako Higushi as Oshin, beautiful and high priced, who eventually sets justice into motion by her example. That's a lot of Japanese names to get used to, but in time you can sort out who's who. I think the movie is well worth watching. The movie is beautifully photographed.
RONIN GAI (1990) or "Streets of the Masterless Samurai" is an award-winning remake to Masahiro Makino's original. Directed by Kazuo Kuroki (Tomorrow), the film also commemorates the 60th death anniversary of Shozo Makino; dubbed the father of Japanese cinema. Shozo Makino is the one individual who revolutionized Japanese cinema by incorporating Western style and sidestepping the usual limitations of "plays" in cinema. This is also Shintaro Katsu's last role as the Ronin named Yagoemon "Bull" Akaushi. … more
Since I retired in 1995 I have tried to hone skills in muttering to myself, writing and napping. At 75, I live in one of those places where one moves from independent living to hospice. I expect to begin … more
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