Home Video Hovel: Bushido Man: Seven Deadly Battles, by Mat Bradley-Tschirgi
Martial arts movies tend to have the same problem as Godzilla movies. The marketing promises non-stop action, but the actual films deliver reams upon reams of stilted exposition punctuated by two or three fights of middling quality. Bushido Man: Seven Deadly Battles takes an ingenious approach of delivering an action buffet interrupted with scenes of the hero eating a variety of meals to prepare for his battles. Despite the generic seriousness of the cover art, Bushido Man: Seven Deadly Battles is a hilarious film delivering zany comedic action scenes in the vein of Jackie Chan in his heyday (think Police Story more than Rush Hour) along with sumptuous noshing.
Mitsuki Koga (The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift) stars as Toramaru, a man on a quest to gather scrolls from the enemies he defeats. As he learns the fighting styles of his opponents by consuming their favorite meals, he strives to return to his master Gensai, played by Yoshiyuki Yamaguchi (Sukiyaki Western Django). Secrets are revealed. Meals are eaten. Battles are won.
Writer-director Takanori Tsujimoto (Red Tears) takes a daring approach with the structure of Bushido Man: Seven Deadly Battles. Most of the film is told in flashback as Toramaru regales Gensai with stories of the battles he has faced in his recent quest to acquire the scrolls containing the secrets of different fighting techniques. By having such a simple structure, we get to the fight scenes right away. There’s no clumsy backstory to each of the characters, just fight scenes that get loonier and loonier as the film progresses. One of the best sequences involves a fight where Toramaru has to use his sword against a gunslinger. The first attempt at this fight ends with our hero pissing himself, but by eating the gunslinger’s favorite meal once again and finishing every last carrot on the plate, he is able to defeat him on his second try.
Shot in a way where you can actually enjoy the fight choreography, the razor-sharp HD look of Bushido Man: Seven Deadly Battles really pops on this Blu-ray release. There are both the original Japanese and new English dubs available. The English dub plays things straight, which makes the humor of the fight scenes all the more effective. The lone special feature on the disc is a brief documentary on the screening of Bushido Man: Seven Deadly Battles at the 2013 Fantasia Fest Film Festival. It’s worth watching for the brief segment in which Mitsuki Koga and Kensuke Sonomura (not just an actor, but also a co-producer, action director, and co-editor of the film) spar in a tiny hotel room to practice for a routine they perform in front of a live crowd at Fantasia Fest.
Easily the best martial arts film in years, comedy or otherwise, Bushido Man: Seven Deadly Battles is a clean distillation of what an action film should be. Heavy on action and light on plot, Bushido Man: Seven Deadly Battles goes down easy. Sometimes, that’s all you need.