Crazy Samurai Musashi: Flawed yet Engaging
In 2020, Japanese director Yûji Shimomura, who had previously directed films like Re: Born and worked as an action director on films and shows such as Alice in Borderland and Bleach, released the film Crazy Samurai Musashi (aka Crazy Samurai: 400 vs 1). I found out about this film while walking through the video section at Wal-Mart and initially thought "Hey, it might have some campy action in it." and I bought it. Upon looking the film up, I found out that its most famous quality was that it featured 'the world's first one shot, 77 minute long action sequence'. Now, while it can be easy to say that this was done as a gimmick to garner attention, especially how films that have done long one shot sequences have gotten a lot of critical praise such as Sam Mendes' 1917 and Alfred Hitchcock's Rope, I don't consider it to be a gimmick. Creating a one shot sequence of any length is a truly difficult thing to do as a single mistake can ruin what could be hours or months long work. But the question is, is the movie good? Well, let's talk about it.
The film's premise follows one of the most famous battles of Miyamoto Musashi (Tak Sakaguchi), a samurai that lived from 1584 to 1645 who has the record of being undefeated in 61 duels. Following the death of two leaders of the Yoshioka Clan, they decide to get revenge and restore their clan's honor using all one hundred members of their clan as well as three hundred Ronin.
The story is sparse, with the first eight minutes and the last four minutes of the film being used for the plot. Dialogue as well is short, with few lines being spoken. Because of this, we do not know much about the Yoshioka Clan or Miyamoto Musashi, their characters, intent or reasoning and more. To best describe it, the story is just the entry point for the film's main focus, the action.
This is where the movie shines the most. Following the introduction to Miyamoto Musashi's initial kill, the camera goes handheld as we follow the lead for the remainder of the film. As the film consists of one singular shot, there are sequences where we see backs and cluttered shots, but it immerses the viewer into the film, making them feel like they are standing by Musashi. There are no cuts or quick edits, which while it would have helped the film at points, it makes the film feel intimate. The audience can see Tak Sakaguchi's exhaustion as he goes through opponents, you see his vivid expressions as the battles go on. It is also impressive to know that during the sequence, he broke his finger, a rib and four of his teeth. There is also no wirework in this film, all of the stunts in the film were done by the actors, making it even more impressive. The few cuts that can be found in the film would be at the very beginning of the film and the ending of the film.
One thing that I would have to comment on in this film would be the blood. Hearing a title like Crazy Samurai Musashi, you would think that this would be a gore and blood fest; but oddly enough, the blood, for the most part, was added in post production. Though the reasoning for this would be that they would be using some of the same extras for the movie and having to change the clothing and prosthetics in the film would make the shoot more difficult.
One of the largest complaints that people would have with the film would be that the action sequence, while impressive, can be exhausting and tedious to watch. Once the action starts, it keeps going for the remainder of the film. While that is understandable, it is still a marvel to behold non-stop action done by experienced swordsmen and actors.
Crazy Samurai Musashi is not perfect. The film's largest flaws would be with its lack of story and character development, which might turn off parts of the movie going audience. But the film's action, choreography and cinematography makes the film a treat for lovers of the action movie genre.
Crazy Samurai Musashi/Crazy Samurai : 400 Vs. 1 can be found on Amazon, Vudu, Google Play and in stores.