‘Hara-Kiri’: Gut-wrenching drama
Directed by Takashi Miike
Screenplay by Kikumi Yamagishi
In a review of Japanese director Takashi Miike’s 2002 film Dead or Alive, The AV Club described his style as “splatterpunk,” and frankly they were not exaggerating. However, in recent years Miike’s films have grown and matured in their dramatic power, combining a punk-influenced desire to undercut traditional film tropes with a smaller (but not insignificant) amount of splatter. The culmination of this trend is Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai, a film which attacks the samurai genre not with gore but with crushing, gut-wrenching human drama.
Koji Yakusho (who worked with Miike in 13 Assassins) plays the head of a famed house of samurai warriors in Tokyo in 1630. A samurai named Hanshiro Tsugumo (Ichikawa Ebizo XI, whom the London Telegraph once described as “Japan’s Brad Pitt”) shows up at his door, claiming that he is penniless and pitiful, with ritual suicide being the only way that he can get out of his miserable life with honor. He requires a sacred space to do the deed, and he is asking for the use of their courtyard. However, without spoiling too much, it soon becomes clear that all is not what it seems.
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