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After the death of the Shogun, his sons, the rightful heir Iemitsu
(Hiroki Matsukata) and Tadanaga (Teruhiko Saido), who was actually
favoured by his father, fight over succession. Thing is, the Shogun was
actually poisoned by Lord Yagyu (Kinnosuke Nakamura), Iemitsu's scheming
and powerful fencing teacher, to ensure the succession, but without
Iemitsu's prior knowledge.
Concerning inheriting the post of shogun from
his father, Tadanaga soon gets support from all kinds of places, which is
when Yagyu persuades his estranged son Jubei (Sonny Chiba) to ensure the
support of the Negoro clan, a clan that has been evicted from its own land
and will now be a strong ally if only they are promised to get their land
After much to and fro, Yagyu has the Negoro-clan assassinate one
of the Emperor's commanders, and then puts the blame for it on Tadanaga -
which basically breaks the back of Tadanaga's campaign, and he gives
himself up, is exiled and later kills himself at the request of Imetsu,
who becomes Shogun after all.
Eventually, though, evidence turns up that
the Negoro clan was involved in the assassination of the Emperor's
commander at Yagyu's request, and thus, Yagyu has the whole clan
annihilated. When Jubei finds this out, he is devastated, because for him
the Negoro clan was a substitute for his own family, and thus he kills
what his (real) father loves the most: Iemitsu.
When Jubei delivers the
severed head of Iemitsu to his father, Lord Yagyu goes mad ...
judging from my synopsis, Shogun's Samurai sounds like great drama
... yet unfortunately it isn't, because besides this main narrative
thread, the film features countless pointless subplots, like a few
lovestories between minor characters, Lord Yagyu's fight against a rivalo
fencing teacher, stories about Lord Yagyu's other children and so on and
so forth. Probably, these subplots are there to suggest an epic approach -
but unfortunately, they only distract from the main narrative and make the
whole thing annoyingly confusing, to say the least. As far as direction is
concerned, Kinji Fukasaku turns in a decent, competent but also
craftsman-like job. This is nothing but a well-done old-fashioned samurai
movie, a film that sadly lacks the freshness, the breathlessness of the
Yakuza films Fukasaku made prior to this. While his Yakuza-movies seemed
one-of-a-kind, this film could have been made pretty much by anybody.
that said, Shogun's Samurai is certainly not the worst movie ever,
it's a decent genre effort - but sadly nothing more!