Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai is a reflective samurai movie that could have done with more in the way of action but as a character driven drama it still manages to entertain and engage.
Plot: A samurai (Ebizo Ichikawa) asks permission to commit ritual suicide in the courtyard of a prominent feudal lord and hears the gruesome tale of what happened to a comrade who made a similar request several months earlier.
Review: With a name like Death of a Samurai you have a pretty good idea that this isn’t going to be laugh-a-minute fare and you’d be right. Takashi Miike directs this somber yet fantastic movie about the end of the Samurai era and how some are forced to make ‘Suicide Bluffs’ to try and receive potential work/money from house leaders.
One warrior called Motome (Eita) comes calling on a house who are not so compassionate and tragedy soon strikes in one of the toughest scenes I’ve ever had to watch where the warrior has to commit Hara Kiri using a bamboo sword.
The acting is excellent by the entire cast and it’s beautifully shot; it’s atmospheric and has a lingering sense of sadness throughout. Themes of disgrace, honour and revenge are explored and there are moments of genuine emotion as we grow to truly care for these characters and their plight.
Ebizô Ichikawa is well cast as Hanshirô Tsugumo; a man who will do anything for his family and when he arrives at the house that made Motome mutilate himself you know that he is not merely here for suicide.
So it’s very engaging however, it is incredibly slowly paced. I picked it up because it says it was an action movie on the cover but it really is more of a character drama with a sword fight at the end.
The impending threat of violence and tension is what keeps it interesting but if you’re looking for an action-packed samurai movie then you will be disappointed.
Overall, Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai is a reflective samurai drama that could have done with a few more swordfights to keep it exciting but as a character drama with some action elements thrown in then it’s definitely worth a watch. It’s beautifully shot and superbly acted, haunting you for days after watching.