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Review of Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai

Updated on July 14, 2014

Other Great Films Directed by Takashi Miike:

  • 13 Assassins
  • The Mole Song: Undercover Agent Reiji
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Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai is a movie that uses phenomenal storytelling. It throws the audience into the lives of Samurai, forcing us to take a long hard look at what it means to have honour, and the many different ways that it can manifest itself, particularly in times of peace. With a highly talented cast, the themes of and beautiful displays of love, honour, pride and loyalty are seen and experienced in a most tangible way. This film is intelligent, well written and directed. It is one of the best films of 2011 and another great addition to its genre.

A Time of Peace

As it is with all warriors in times of peace, there often comes a time of unrest. In Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai the time of peace is a difficult thing. The samuari's skills are no longer in demand, which, for the average citizen are a cause for joy, but for the average samurai, especially those burdened with the responsibility of family, they are threatened with poverty and desperation. The film focuses on one such samurai's tale of economic defeat and struggles, propelling him into uncomfortable situations made through rash decisions. The consequences of those decisions unfold as a series of unfortunate events, unravelling and trampelling around all who encounter its path.

Directed by Takashi Miike, this film makes full use of the beautiful landscape to great effect. The screen shots, not always so elaborately, are used well in conjunction with the characters emotional responses, and are used appropriately to properly convey the story to the audience. Unfortunately the film starts off rather slowly, a possible deterrent for some potential viewers. It picks up pace eventually, but it does get a little boring for a while before that happens. There are also moments when an event or two feels a little dragged out, leaving the viewer a little short on patience.

The Actors

In addition to the smartly organized storytelling and good directing, the acting in this film was top notch. This can be attributed to the film's roster of such talented actors.

Ebizô Ichikawa born Horikoshi Takatoshi, is a well known Japense actor who takes on the lead role as a widower samuari named Hanshirô Tsugumo. He becomes the sole guardian of his fragile daughter Miho and eventurally becomes the ward of his best friend's son Motome Chijiiwa. Taking on almost two different personalities in this film - that of the loving father, and that of the avenger - he does the character justice.

Motome, the second protagonist in this film is played by Eita Nagayama. He is best known for his work in Azumi, Memories of Matsuko and Dear Doctor. In this film, he shines. His body language and array of facial expressions hooks the audience into his world. His pain is so realistic that is very nearly tangible, and at times, difficult to watch.

Much like Eita, Hikari Mitsushima who plays Miho Tsugumo, Hanshirô's daughter, she pulled off a very impressive performance. Sickly and frail, Miho goes through several different harrowing experiences that leaves her hallow and broken. Hikari's portrayal of Miho is spot-on, enriching the storyline all the more.

Koji Hashimoto is an actor and director who, unlike the other actors in this movie, have a little less work to do when it comes to displays of emotion. Even so, he is impressive and onscreen he commands an almost regal air about him. He plays Kageyu, the Feudal Lord's right hand man.


Another wonderful thing about this film is that each subplot was given an adequate amount of time to be played out. Nothing was rushed and the movie benefited a great deal from that. The creative and highly effective way that the story of the Samurai's came to be was done with great finesse; so much so that it reminded me of the classics Fight Club and Memento.

Unlike many other Samurai movies, this one lacked the blood and gorge that is usually featured throughout. Instead this film focused primarily on the storyline. The emotions of the characters and the desperation of their plight was heavily emphasised. This shift from heavy action to heavy storytelling worked exceptionally well in this film.

To Rent or Not to Rent

This film is definitely rent worthy. Whether ordering from iTunes or Netflix or simply borrowing it from the library, it is certainly worth your time.

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai Trailer

3 1/2 stars

3 stars for Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai


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