There’s nothing in the West quite like Asian historical action epics. That sense of grandeur which mixes fact and fiction to produce a glossy spectacle on a huge scale. Akira Kurosawa set the bar with his colourful masterpiece Ran. Today, it’s a mainstay of cinema across the continent. This has been made possible by the rise of CGI and the increase in film funding; especially in the Chinese market. Shinsuke Sato’s new film Kingdom is a bit of an oddity. A Japanese film about The Middle Kingdom.
Orphaned by war, Shin (Kento Yamazaki) and Hyou (Ryo Yoshizawa) are thrust together as slaves. Over the years they become blood brothers, regularly sparring together and are both determined to become great generals. When Hyou is spotted by soldiers and taken to the palace, he leaves Shin behind. This just makes him more determined. When his friend returns dying, he vows to avenge him.
Based on the best-selling manga by Yasuhisa Hara, Kingdom approaches Chinese history with an emphasis on entertainment. This approach eschews the usual melodrama to deliver a raft of very impressive set-pieces. Sato tackles the Warring States period through pulp action and stylised choreography. It’s incredibly good fun and the young cast more than hold their own. Kingdom is a battle you should not miss.
Kingdom screened at Fantasia Festival 2019.