Notable Cast: Raizo Ichikawa, Tamao Nakamura
Also known as: Nemuri Kyoshiro 1: Sappocho, Enter Kyoshiro Nemuri, the Swordsman, Nemuri Kyoshiro: The Chinese Jade
The Sleepy Eyes of Death franchise has always received a fair amount of praise from its cult fans and fans of chanbara films, so after finishing up the Zatoichi franchise I needed a new swordsman epic to focus my time on. The first film of this portion of the series, which goes under a few different titles like The Chinese Jade, is a rather mediocre affair considering the hype that surrounds this series. On its surface, it’s a decently entertaining swordsman tale that takes a mystery plot and adds in a ton of pulpy popular elements to it, but the film thinks it’s much smarter and deeper than it actually is.
Kyoshiro (Raizo Ichikawa) is a notorious ronin, known for his lethal skills and the legendary Full Moon Cut technique with his blade. When he is randomly attacked by ninja one night and then approached by two mysterious strangers intent on hiring his services for seemingly small tasks, he decides to investigate. He uncovers a massive conspiracy by two rival gangs to find a hidden jade statuette. Two gangs willing to pay anything for his blade or kill him if he refuses.
Because the film throws the audience right into the middle of this established world, it doesn’t often give a lot of explanation to a few of the enjoyable secondary pieces – including all the pseudo-romantic threads with various women – and the film quickly drops a few more intriguing plot elements for the sake of keeping the movie moving. As our hero starts a romantic relationship with the woman sent to spy on him, there is a love triangle established with a young ninja that’s kicked to the curb rather randomly in the third act. It almost seems like they didn’t know how to handle it so they tie it up with some awkward dialogue and shoo it away. This goes for a lot of the more thematic and dramatic portions of the story and character building. Familial elements seem washed over quickly and despite the film’s best efforts to give Kyoshiro some depth to his arrogant demeanor (including a scene where he curses his life on a water side cliff), none of it sticks. The film gets a slow clap for trying to add in some thoughtful writing, but it’s more of a pity response to its attempts versus its actual successes.
|"Did I ever tell you that you have a dumb hat? No? Well now I did."|