Posted July 28, 2010 by Alex Moss Editor in DVD/Blu-ray
 
 

Kamui: The Lone Ninja


A misguided adaptation of a popular Japanese Manga animation that
despite its entertaining set pieces fails to deliver much to connect
with.

Kung Fu has become a familiar part of mainstream action in modern cinema. The likes of The Matrix films and actors like Jet Li and Jackie Chan have made us appreciate the flair with which the martial art can be enjoyed. Kamui
is a hark back to the more exploitation Kung Fu movies of the 70s. It
forgoes much of the slick ways of modern Kung Fu and focuses more on the
nature of the ninja, and the code that they must adhere to.

Kamui (Matsuyama) is part of a ninja clan until he decides to
abandon them and go his own way. Struggling to make his way in the world
he teams up with a fisherman, Hanbei (Kobayshi) and sets off on
an adventure to find his true calling. The problems arise when Kamui’s
clan swear to track him down for breaking the ninja code.

With its opening narrative, over manga-like animation, Kamui gives
the impression that you are about to embark on an epic voyage of
discovery with the titular hero. Alas, this is not the case. Instead the
story is a more personal one and fails to truly delve into the heart of
the character in anything other than broad strokes. There is your
run-of the mill Eastern cinema symbolism, this time in the form of a
love story involving two sides of the same seashell, but it is only ever
used as a distractive sub-plot.

In spite of the lack of serious plot, the film does manage to create some enjoyable action sequences. Director Sai (Blood and Bones)
brings a fun retro feel to the film. With whip pans, crash zooms and
villains that cackle like drunken hyenas it projects a certain nostalgic
charm that is always fun. The use of slow motion is over-used but
always to blood-splattering delight while the fights are always kinetic
in their execution to dizzying effect.

Sai is bitterly let down by the computer effects that play a crucial part in the film. They
are always clunky and never convince as anything other than bad
computer gaming. An attack on a fishing boat by a great white shark is
laughable at a point where jeopardy is paramount. Furthermore some of
the sets feel plastic giving the impression of an episode of Xena
Warrior Princess rather than sweeping epic.

In the role of Sugaru, Koyuki brings some much-needed class to the film. Her performance is reminiscent of Michelle Yeoh’s in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
in that it brings huge gravity while always remaining a calm influence.
Kobayshi projects a certain charm to his role as Hanabei but is never
given the chance to fully develop as a character which is a pity
considering that early on he is the most entertaining on display.
Meanwhile in the title role of Kamui, Matsuyama does the brooding hero
thing well and has the moves to accompany it but is relatively flat as a
character. Even when called to show emotion he resorts to his
hundred-yard death stare that, while good in the action role, does not
convince.

With the energy of the Tasmanian devil and making about as much
sense as one, Kamui is fun without ever challenging the thought process.
Had it been more of a pastiche of the genre in the vein of a Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
much could have been excused but as it stands it takes itself too
seriously and does not have the budget or artist integrity to be
considered such. On this evidence Kamui may well be the last ninja.


Alex Moss Editor

 
Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com