Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance/Review
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
Here's how it all started. Entry #1 of the legendary, manga-inspired classic, Lone Wolf and Cub. Though the sequels tend to be more popular because of their non-stop comic-book action and bloodshed, let's go back to the beginning before Ogami Itto (Tomisaburo Wakayama) and his son, Daigoro (Akihiro Tomikawa) became "Demons on the road to hell". All was well in Japan's Tokugawa era with Ogami Itto as the high-ranked, Tokugawa Shogunate (Or "Shogun's Executioner") but a certain clan, the Yagyu, have made it their own vendetta to bring down Ogami Itto. They set him up for plotting against The Shogun as well as framing him for the murder of his wife, Azami (Reiko Kasahara) Ogami quickly discovers for himself that the Yagyu is behind it all and falls into a trap in which he was to be "Killed because he had attacked his arresting officials". But the officers are no match for Ogami and he cuts them all down...And a certain spectator watched it all in horror and disbelief, the Yagyu lord, Retsudo (Tokio Oki)
Still loyal to his master, Ogami is in a dilemma to commit seppuku or to get his revenge by breaking himself from the shogun's law. He quickly makes his own choice for revenge (Hell yeah!) but he has to give his infant son the choice of joining his mother in death (In the form of a ball) or to travel the earth as murderers (In the form of Ogami's katana, a Dotanuki) The son picks the sword. Though Ogami knew his son didn't understand the choices, he knew deep down that the "Ito family blood" had made Diagoro make the right decision. The next morning, both Ogami and Diagoro are dressed in the ceremonial white wardrobes signifying that are accepting death. But to the dismay of the Shogun officals, Ogami tells them that he and his son are already dead and the ex-shogunate goes on a rampage by killing all those around him. Outside his house, he comes face to face with Retsudo. The Yagyu lord offers him a deal to have a duel with his son, and if Ogami wins, he will be allowed to roam free beyond the regions of the shogun. Ogami accepts the deal. And in what appears to be a fixed fight with the Yagyu son having the sunlight to blind Ogami, the roles are suddenly reversed in the last second when Diagoro emerges from Ogami's back wearing a reflector. The son is blinded...And beheaded. It appears that Retsudo has kept his word on letting the "Lone Wolf & Cub" go out into the world as banished demons who now travel by babycart and have become killers for hire.
Like I said from the top, the first part of this series might be lacking some of the things that make the series so memorable (Such as the wild arsenal of weapons/mechanisms of the babycart or Ogami Ito taking out entire armies single-handly) but it's refreshing to see some sort of a "down to earth" approach make it's mark here. For instance, the only time you will see some different emotions from Tomisaburo Wakayama is in this installment. And just like in the re-edited Grindhouse Classic, Shogun Assassin, the same sequences that serve as flashbacks are also included as flashbacks for Sword of Vengeance, but thankfully, there's some nice extensions on these flashback scenes in this complete version. Such as the dignity on display when Ogami holds Diagoro and tells him to help pray for the souls that he's taken as the executioner! Something that he will be sure NOT to do in his future. So it's good to have these type of moments around. Another thing that might feel different about this one is that the "Revenge on the Yagyu" plot disappears and is replaced by a miscellanous assignment when Ogami has to prevent a high-ranked heir from being killed by four assassins. First-time viewers would probably rather see Ogami just battle it out with the Yagyus, but you'll have to wait for later sequels to see that. But at least the four assassins that Ogami has to take out are surrounded by a group of villainous scum. Seriously, this is probably the most evil bunch in the whole series and you'll definetly be glad to see these guys get their come-uppings. Lone Wolf and Cub style! So while I do perfer a few of the sequels over this one, it doesn't mean that this one doesn't kick ass. It does kick ass. Just on a different level.
Reviewed by Laydback