‘Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai’ Blu-ray Review
I don’t claim to be a huge fan of samurai movies. I also don’t claim to be a huge fan of remakes (although, I’m more likely to welcome them if they are 40+ years after the original). Hara-Kiri: Death of Samurai, then, has two things kind of working against it before the movie starts. Still, Takashi Miike’s remake (of the 1962 classic Harakiri) stands out as a good story. More importantly, the Blu-ray transfer is worth getting today. It’s still a genre film, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a huge fan to enjoy this movie.
That certainly wasn’t the case for me.
Taking an unflinching look at honor and tragedy, Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai alternates between past and present (in relation to the story) as Tsugumo (Ichikawa Ebizō XI), a poor samurai, tries to give himself up for a ritualistic suicide. The feudal lord tells him the tale of Motome (Eita) and the tragic bluff he made.
With poverty, honor, tragedy, and all the themes in between coming into play, the film is more melodramatic than most samurai films. In fact, it feels a lot more relatable to today (or at least today’s storytelling) than you’d expect. As an outsider of the genre, this is easy to appreciate.
Part of the melodrama comes with the surprising lack of violence. From the outside, you’d expect a lot more slashing and blood splatters. However, Miike seems to care more about the story than the action. This is almost always a good thing.
When they do decide to show violence, it is done just as effectively as the scenes without it. As far as balance goes, Hara-Kiri seems to be a deliberate choice. Miike can be known for his violence, so the change-of-pace is noticeable.
The movie was originally released in Japan in 2011 and was noteworthy because it was presented in 3D. Looking back, most of the complaints came from the use of 3D, which isn’t that surprising. After a small release in the United States last year, Hara-Kiri is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Since it wasn’t presented in 3D Blu-ray, I can’t speak for that particular transfer. However, I can compliment the Blu-ray quality because the picture (and sound) is phenomenal. It isn’t as flashy as most Blu-rays, but all the snowy showdown scenes (that’ll make sense when you watch it) are all noteworthy.
The only complaint comes from the lack of special features. The only special feature is a short (less than two minutes) audio excerpt by Geoffrey Gilmore (of Tribeca Film) talking about the movie’s relevancy today. Gilmore does bring up a couple important points, but the coverage just isn’t very extensive.
If you can get past this, Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai is a great Blu-ray to own. It’s got the storytelling essentials, including a compelling and entertaining story. From a purely technical standpoint, it also is worth having because it looks fantastic.
Either way you look at it, there are reasons to purchase this movie – which is available today.
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