Prolific Japanese gore king Takashi Miike celebrates his hundredth directorial effort with a samurai epic so wince-inducingly violent, you practically need anaesthetic just to watch it. Hacking, stabbing, slashing, chopping: it’s all here in a display of stylishly executed butchery that pays bloody fealty to Akira Kurosawa, Masaki Kobayashi and the other masters of Japanese swordplay. But it also has that distinctive slash of mordant wit and gonzo flair that’s all Miike’s own.
The ‘immortal’ in question is Manji (Takuya Kimura, channelling Toshiro Mifune), a shogun’s bannerman on the run after killing his master. Left dying following an encounter with bounty hunters, he’s dosed with sacred bloodworms by an old nun. If you don’t know what sacred bloodworms are, think of them as the ultimate Miike cheat code. From here on, his battered hero can defy the basics of human physiology to prevail in each and every violent encounter. And there are plenty. With Manji teaming up with a vengeance-craving girl, Rin (Hana Sugisaki), to track down the bandits who killed her parents, combat is unleashed in wooded glades, broken-down villages and, hauntingly, amid falling leaves.
The story isn’t wildly original – think ‘Leon’ with throwing stars – and it’s overlong, but the action is unrelenting, thrillingly staged and occasionally even flat-out hilarious. One of the few directors who can play a multi-sword evisceration for laughs, Miike has served up another frenetic joy.