Crazy Samurai Musashi: 400 vs. 1 (Japan, 2020)

Millennial Japanese action legend Tak Sakaguchi makes his most ambitious project yet with this film that took a total of nearly a decade to complete but is well worth it.

The Yoshioka Clan are preparing for a massive duel with a legendary Samurai, one named Miyamoto Musashi. They have hired 100 students and 300 mercenaries. When Musashi arrives, it becomes a non-stop battle between Musashi and the Yoshioka Clan.

That pretty much sums up the plot of the film and why is the plot extremely short? Because the film mainly consists of a 77-minute long-take sword fight between Tak Sakaguchi’s Miyamoto Musashi and the 400 opponents. What many will find interesting is that this particular sword fight was filmed in 2011. However, a film can’t just consist of a long take fight scene. Flash forward seven years later, when Sakaguchi’s longtime collaborator Yuji Shimomura shot a prologue and a epilogue to book end this massive fight.

The bookend scenes work well. The film starts off with an 8-minute opening in which we are introduced to Chusuke, played by Kento Yamazaki, who has been chosen to take over the Yoshioka Clan. However, Chusuke is a big green and has never really seen war in front of him. When an elder and younger member of the clan are both dispatched, this is where the long-take fight scene begins.

Tak Sakaguchi must have had one thing in mind crafting this long-take fight scene. And that is can he overcome the physical limitations of the human body. What is amazing is that Sakaguchi succeeds and we can see that throughout the course of this long-take sword fight, he does exhibit exhaustion and there are times where we see Musashi drinking water and taking a breather before going after a new group of samurai. There are glimpses where we see certain members of the group come in as “sub-bosses” if you will, which Musashi quickly dispatches of.

The only flaw in the chain here is that many of the stunt swordsman play different characters. At times, you will see the opponent roll off the screen after being hit only to reappear as another opponent. While it may be impossible to get 400 actual stunt fighters and it can be forgiven here, imagine the possibility should Sakaguchi had achieved getting 400 actual fighters. That would have been an amazing sight to see. However, as mentioned, it is forgiven here and yes, the moves at times seem repetitive, but they are still worth seeing as we see Musashi conserve his energy when defending before unleashing his offense against the entire clan.

The epilogue is set seven years later (as with the real time of the film) and features a now aged Musashi confronted by Chusuke and some of the mercenaries. It is here where Sakaguchi goes in full hyper mode with an amazing fight that goes quite crazy. It puts a stamp on an excellently executed ambitious film from Tak Sakaguchi and Yuji Shimomura.

Crazy Samurai Musashi is definitely worth a watch for those who want to see a new level in filming action scenes. While there is a sense of repetition and redundancy, it is clear that Tak Sakaguchi had one thing in mind and he succeeds.

WFG RATING: B+

Well Go USA presents an Arthit Co. Film in association with My Theater D.D. Director: Yuji Shimomura. Producer: Shinichi Fujita. Writer: Atsuki Tomori; based on an original story by Sion Sono. Cinematography: Yasutaka Nagano.

Cast: Tak Sakaguchi, Kento Yamazaki, Yosuke Saito, Ben Hiura, Arata Yamanaka, Fuka Hara, Kosei Kimura, Nobu Morimoto, Akihiko Sai, Massaki Takarai.

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