The conflicting demands of loyalty, honour and feeding one’s family mark this Japanese civil war drama following a small-town samurai through the turmoil surrounding the end of the Shogunate and the restoration of the Emperor. Although forsaking his rural clan is seen as a breach of trust, the hardships of survival on a meagre income leave Kichi Nakai’s protagonist no practical choice. His swordsmanship wins him a position with Kyoto’s feared Shinsen-gumi group of samurai however, and he remains steadfast to their cause even though the tide of history is running against them. A basic knowledge of nineteenth-century Japanese politics could prove useful to sort out the plot, but it wouldn’t make this 143-minute offering any less lumbering, sentimental and over-extended. There are some lively combat sequences, but the combination of stoic suffering in the face of rigid values and misty-eyed nostalgia for hearth and home doesn’t really push the same buttons here as it evidently did for Japanese viewers, since this beat ‘Zatoichi’ for best film and actor at last year’s Japanese film awards. Takeshi was robbed!