Likely to tan the high-concept hides of every Hollywood action flick this year, this majestically violent film from ultra-prolific Japanese maestro Takashi Miike is probably the closest modern cinema has come to Akira Kurosawa’s mud-and-blood-caked Samurai showdowns.
The first hour is a pure, slowburn tease. One plot strain demonstrates the outlandish barbarism of a feudal lord, while another has a select unit of fighters hatching a grand plan to take him down. The film is built as a long crescendo, opening at a level of considered, Zen-like reflection and ending with a prolonged cacophony of elaborate, town-wide annihilation.
There are occasional dashes of CGI for elements that couldn’t be staged for the camera (cue rampaging herds of burning bulls), but Miike’s film is all the more triumphant for offering elaborate, tangible sets, elegant period attire, hardboiled dialogue and rolling oceans of glorious, rosy red blood. Pure joy.