DVD Review: Hari-Kiri: Death of a Samurai

In 1963 Masaki Kobayashi won the Special Jury Prize at Cannes for his film Harakiri. There’s nothing quite like the word “remake” to send a wave of fear through your average film obsessive, but nothing much phases Takashi Miike. After building a reputation in extreme Asian cinema, the prolific director has settled down over the last decade. Whilst Hari-Kiri: Death of a Samurai may not quite live up to the heights of the original, his take on this tale of revenge, honour and disgrace is a damn fine film.

A penniless samurai Hanshiro (Ebizô Ichikawa) arrives at the home of a feudal lord and requests to be allowed to perform the honourable death of Seppuka in his courtyard. The household steward Kageyu (Kôji Yakusho) is suspicious of his motives, suspecting his motives to be financial. Hanshiro is resolute in his wishes, but then Kageyu tells him the cautionary tale of a young samurai called Montome (Eita) who recently arrived at their gates with the same plea. However, there seems more to Hanshiro than meets the eye, and whilst he claims not to have known the young samurai, something isn’t quite right.

Takashi Miike eschews the grizzly to focus on the drama. As Montome’s tale unfolds and it becomes apparent that there’s something not quite right with Hanshiro. As the household samurais’ suspicions grow, the tension mounts towards a spectacular final showdown. Miike gets the best out of his actors, with superb performances from all the leads against the beautifully shot period background.

Hari-Kiri: Death of a Samurai is released by Universal Pictures on Blu-ray and DVD and is out now.

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