Hanzo The Razor: Sword of Justice/Review
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
From the opening frames of this movie, we see that we're set to observe a tale that takes place in 19th century feudal Japan. The camera focuses on one character walking forcefully through the city of Edo. That character is none other than police officer, Hanzo Itami (Shintaro Katsu, who also served as the film's producer) the stroll seems a bit ordinary at first, but then something peculiar happens. We're given a wide variety of split-screens and camera angles of Hanzo's strut through the city. As if this technique seems out of place, we then start paying attention to the musical score. Is this some sort of knock-off of Curtis Mayfield's "Freddie's Dead" from the Superfly soundtrack that we're hearing? After combining the imagery and sounds of this opening sequence, we already know that we're in for a much, much different sort of stylized film that isn't familiar to the rest of Jidaigeki/chambara cinema.
As the plot begins, we find out that Hanzo is a loyal (But damned tough) cop in his precinct (Consider him the Dirty Harry of the Shogun era) he quickly gets into some heated trouble with his superior, Magobei Onishi (Kô Nishimura) for his refusal of including his blood oath for upholding the law. Hanzo lashes out, suspecting of the corruption and dishoner of his organization by only apprehending poor pickpockets (Who Hanzo suspects are working for a higher-class of villain) and is aware of bribery among the officials. Soon enough, Hanzo gets a lead on a mysterious figure known as "Killer Kanbei", who was said to be banished by the court of law, but is in fact, secretly roaming the streets. Before Hanzo embarks on the case, let's take a visit to his crib to get better acquainted with this guy, shall we? In his house, you'll find three servants (Two of which are criminals, named "Devil Fire" and "Viper", who have been spared of jail-time by Hanzo just as long as they stay true to his word by obeying everything he says) the house is also massively boobytrapped. Hanzo says he has enemies and, as you'll soon find out, is well prepared for any invasion. There's also tons of training equipment to be found. Sure, you expect to see some statues that Hanzo uses his brassknuckles on for the equivalent of a punching bag, but there are also some devices used especially for a certain sword. Now you may think that the title, Sword of Justice could be referring to Hanzo's katana, but it's in fact referring to another "sword" that succeeds in letting truth and justice prevail. However, you won't find it hidden in a sheath on his belt. You'll find it underneath his belt...You know, in that very protective area for males. That's right. Hanzo's main member has a great streak for making female suspects reveal all hidden secrets due to the ecstacy that his "sword" provides. Hard to believe, but it's true. You just have to see it to believe it. Even more mystifying are the sequences when we see Hanzo putting his "Truth machine" through vigorous training. Always counting on it to win cases. Sure enough, the device will be used when Hanzo gets deep into the "Killer Kanbei" case. As if this movie didn't have enough unusual material in it, along comes the epilogue. The "Killer Kanbei" storyline has come to an end, but Hanzo stumbles onto a scene where two young, delirious children are on the verge of putting their terribly ill father out of his misery. Though the father wishes for his death, the law says that even a mercy killing will brand the children as murderers and they will likely be executed. Hanzo, ever the devoted trooper, takes the law into his hands and (In the final sequence of the movie) the city of Edo, Japan is (Literally) at Hanzo's feet, awaiting for the justice to break free....By any politically incorrect ways.
Inspired by the manga, Zatoichi/Lone Wolf & Cub director Kenji Misumi obviously doesn't disappoint when it comes to this first installment of a chambara franchise. Yet, in this day & age, the infamous interrogation scenes will be troublesome to certain viewers (Though it should be noted that these sequences would later toned down in quantity for further sequels) but even if you take away the overt sexuality, you're still left with an unusual chambara film. As noted earlier, the musical score has a lot to do with it. Not only is it the coolest music I've ever heard in any old samurai/chambara flick, it's really among the best that I've heard from all of 70's Japanese cinema. As far as the action sequences go, I do admit that they felt shortened on my second viewing. There's only two big fight scenes to be found in the movie. One being the showdown with Kanbei and the other (Which is the best) is the fight at Hanzo's "House of Horrors". Though both scenes are brief, they're still quite exhilirating. Lastly, there's Shintaro Katsu's performance as Hanzo. It's always so hard to believe that this was the same man who played the sympathetic and tortured soul that we hold so dear to our hearts in many of his Zatoichi movies. But to see Katsu transform himself as this character is a revelation. He appeared to have studied from the aformentioned Dirty Harry method of acting and (In true 70's Grindhouse form) the result, both in his performance and what appears in the overall film, reaches legendary status in this beloved world of no-holds-barred cinema.
Reviewed by Laydback