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on 6 February 2015
REVIEWED VERSION: 2012 Revolver Entertainment UK DVD (2D version) (Region 2)

Director: Takashi Miike

Cast: Kôji Yakusho, Munetaka Aoki, Naoto Takenaka, Hikari Mitsushima, Ebizô Ichikawa, Kazuki Namioka, Takashi Sasano, Takehiro Hira, Eita

Production: Japan / UK 2011

SYNOPSIS

Motome (Eita), a ronin (masterless samurai) living in poverty seeks out a Feudal Lord Saitou Kageyu (Kôji Yakusho) with an unusal request: he wishes to use the lord's courtyard to commit seppuku (honorable ritual suicide). However, Motome does not desire to die. Instead he hopes that the lord will send him away with some ryo (Japanese currency at the time). Unfortunately the lord is tired of this form of "begging" and forces Motome to follow through - even when he sees that Motome only possesses a wooden sword imitation.
A couple of days later, another samurai (Ebizo Ichikawa) appears at Kageyu's door also wishing to commit seppuku in his courtyard. Little does Kageyu know of his connection to Motome and his plans...

THE PROS & CONS

Already the title sequence makes one thing clear from the start with the somber, melancholic score: this is not a typical samurai film we are being presented.
Anyone expecting an action-packed, more "traditional" samurai tale in the style of the Lone Wolf & Cub movie series will probably be disappointed: HARA-KIRI is story-driven and features very few scenes of action - it's a drama, not an action film, something to keep in mind. It tells a non-glamorous story of a samurai's life in poverty, one many of us might not be used to seeing.
I like most of Takashi Miike's work, as I really like his style and story-telling. I am a fan of Japanese samurai movies, so HARA-KIRI was like finding the Holy Grail: it features the best aspects of Miike's directing, but is quite different from his previous films. HARA-KIRI "works" mostly because of the unique story and Miike taking the time to tell it properly, including the background story in full detail. It also does not include the humor, typical for Miike's films - HARA-KIRI is dead serious. This is what makes the film so heart-breaking and makes it a masterpiece.
While being far less violent than some of Takashi Miike's previous works (ICHI THE KILLER), HARA-KIRI: DEATH OF A SAMURAI manages to take the audience down in a differnt way - a brutal stab in the heart: it's a very powerful, moving and heartbreaking film with a fabulous finale.
There is one particular scene early on in the film, the ritual suicide, while not excessively graphic, it is dragged out and quite sadistic and might be hard to watch for some.
The acting is formidable. Eita gives us a great and believable opening as Motome, Kôji Yakusho as Kageyu is equally impressive, but it is Ebizo Ichikawa who carries the story, giving the film heart and soul with his impeccable performance.
Nobuyasu Kita's cinematography is brilliant, the costumes department did an awesome job, everything looks just perfect as you would imagine Japan being like during the Edo period.
As I mentioned before, the excellent score by Ryûichi Sakamoto (MERRY CHRISTMAS MR. LAWRENCE) adds very much to the film's somber and melancholic mood - minimalistic and quiet, but VERY effective.
Overall HARA-KIRI: DEATH OF A SAMURAI is one of the best movie experiences I ever had. It left me breathless a couple of times and I had to rewatch it immediately afterwards. HIGHLY recommended! Note: this is NOT 13 ASSASSINS Part 2!

ON A SIDE NOTE

- was the first 3D title to be shown in official selection at the Cannes Film Festival
- remake of Masaki Kobayashi's 1962 film Harakiri

DVD DETAILS

Feature running time: 122:35 mins. (uncut)
MPAA Rating: Unrated
BBFC Rating: 18 (strong bloody violence)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: Japanese 5.1, Japanese 2.0
Subtitles: English (optional)
Extras: None
Region: 2

Picture quality: 4/5
Audio quality: 4/5
Extras: 0/5

The good and sharp picture and good audio quality is retained in this DVD edition. On the minus: the absolute lack of extras.
The subtitles are optional. There is NO dubbed English audio track.
22 Comments| 14 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 1 July 2012
I loved 13 Assassins for its powerful insight into the way of the Samurai, forsaking everything for the creed of the warrior. So when Hara-Kiri came out I was eager to see how Takashi Miike would follow up such a class act. Well the critics said it was dark and oh boy were they right! Fed up with being conned for money by paying off suicide posers, the ruling class make an example of one such impoverished Samurai only to reap the whirlwind when his friend comes along with a similar request. Sharply focussed and leaving nothing unobserved this tale of honour and revenge spirals to the inevitable bloody showdown. Not for the fainthearted, with scenes best viewed between the fingers, this is yet another stunning testament to the unbending way of Bushido and the unique genius of a great film-maker.
0Comment| 20 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 14 April 2013
A respected house get fed up of samurai calling round every five minutes trying to blag them out of cash. Claiming they're hard done by and are gonna have to commit suicide if turned away. Then one day, they make an example of a young samurai after he knocks on their door with another story of woe, resulting in him committing suicide (rather nastily) in their courtyard.. But with the arrival of a stranger shortly after~ward we learn of the true story behind the young samurai's predicament..
As you probably guessed, this isn't exactly a heart~warming and fun tale of fate, honour and vengeance for all the family, coming from the barrel of director Miike, but it is however nicely shot, well filmed and suitably downbeat.
I thoroughly enjoyed 13 Assassins, but those of you expecting a similar film should read a few more reviews, coz this is hardly action packed, heroic bloodshed! It's much more of a character drama set in 17th century Japan. I was aware that this was a remake, however I don't believe I've ever seen the original, so cannot comment on whether this is better or not. Usually not, as far as remakes are concerned. Personally I preferred 13 Assassins and its theme of 'a few stood against many' and its visceral violence but that's just my uncultured side coming out, again!
Picture good on the dvd, which is what you'd expect from a new film. Extras none on the dvd, which is what you'd expect from a new film just bought for a £1.
3.5/5 stars rounded up.
0Comment| 8 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
This is a film from takashi miike director of 13 assassins and ichi the killer this is a classic tale of honour and revenge amidst the fall of the samurai in 17th century Japan. Seeking a noble end poverty stricken samurai Henshiro requests to commit ritual suicide at the house of a feudal lord but after being told of the tragic story of another samurai's suicide that of Hanshiro's close friend motome. Hanshiro sets out on a path of vengeance a violent path that will lead to a bloody showdown with those responsible for his friends death the cinema photography is amazing the colour's are beautiful the sword play is breathtaking highly recommended.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 26 June 2012
Following on from the excellent 13 Assassins Takishi Miike now remakes another classic samurai story. Hara-Kiri is the tale of a man who asks to commit ritual suicide in a lords premises. Doing such an act will garner greater honour. However, he is told that this is not the first time that this request has been made and that such people usually do this as a bluff to gain money in hard times.

The film starts with this and then intercuts with the previous ronin (masterless samurai) who requested it and tells his story. This is then intercut with the tale of what brought him to this stage before the final reckoning. Of course the stories are linked and of course this isn't coincidence.

Miike has beautifully shot this film and the whole tone is one of low tones and a time of honour. Its a morality play in essence though with the final scene showing exactly what the honour is. There is violence (one part was particularly bloody) but not much of it. Don't expect a long fight scene as was in the previous effort.

The film works due its style, acting and direction. Miike's stamp is all over this and its a fantastic achievement. How he does these films in such a quick time I never will understand. It isn't an action film however. So don't expect that. But expect a thoughful morality play of feudal Japan and a look into why the honour code let so many down.
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on 7 June 2012
This film is both an homage to Kobayashi's classic and a totally different telling of the story. According to various interviews Miike was working from the original story, which gives certain insights into the background of the main characters and their motivation. Unlike SEPPUKU (Hari-Kiri) which spells out the historical context leading up to the events depicted, this version expects the viewer to be aware of the peaceful era of Tokugawa rule. It is also helpful to have seen the original in order to comprehend how the story follows both paths, the similarities and differences. Miike, who is best known as an over-the-top filmmaker, seems to have turned the corner and become more a traditionalist. The recent remake of 13 ASSASSINS started this trend, while this movie went even further. As a matter of fact, this film has more the feeling of Yamada Yoji's trilogy of samurai films from the last decade (based on the stories of Fujisawa Shuhei) giving a human heart to the low level samurai who are victims of their cruel overlords. Starting with his brilliant stage play ZATO ICHI, and continuing through 13 ASSASSINS to HARA-KIRI: DEATH OF A SAMURAI (Ichimei), we see a new maturity on the part of Japan's most well known filmmaker as he changes his legacy for the better.
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on 5 October 2016
First of all this film is absolutely beautiful to look at, and it comes across as very authentic but it's also boring in parts.
People going in expecting another 13 Assassins will be extremely disappointed, there's very little action like that film. What you will get is a softly spoken character and story driven film which isn't the most thrilling.
The opening 30mins had me very interested but then next hour was abit of a drag unfortunately but it picked up in the last 30 mins.
It's not Takashi Miike's finest hour by a long shot but it's beautifully shot and worth a watch for fans of Samurai.
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on 29 September 2015
Well, action packed it certainly isn't. As a study of life in feudal Japan times it is very interesting - makes one appreciate the luxuries that we living in the 21st century take for granted. Production and direction-wise can't be faulted BUT - I have two issues with the movie: first is with the initial request to commit ritual suicide. Why not just request from the Lord's retainer the 3 ryo required for the doctor instead of an elaborate "scam" which I found made me far less sympathetic to the ronin's plight. The retainer was portrayed as a sympathetic individual, so one is led to believe that the request could have been entertained. Second point is the hero's denial of knowing the first ronin when in fact he does. What was the point of the denial - and for a film which is so focused on honour and word as a bond, both of the characters to my mind betrayed those fundamental principles. Unless that is the point the movie is trying to make....however the end result was to make me as a viewer appreciate more the House of Li's stance in the matter, rather than sympathising with the main protagonist. But the ending is a nice twist and does cause pause for thought.
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Having just given poor old Takashi Miike a right good dissing, for his western parody nonsense, "Sukiyaki Western Django", which I am sure would have upset him no end! Ha ha hah, I will now redress the balance big time. Clearly Miike is better with home advantage and staying firmly rooted in Japanese history. This is a film that even Japanese master Kenji Mizoguchi would have identified with, and maybe even liked. It is a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions that is worth the telling. The film reminded me of a Thomas Hardy novel, and had me thinking stupidly that it might even be an adaption. It was in fact a re-imagining of Masaki Kobayashi's "Harakiri". Unlike all the glut of silly martial arts films we have had with heroes cutting through swathes of bad guys and flying through bamboo forests, this one is rooted firmly and sensibly in Japanese history. Not sure I like that word sensible! As a result it is like a breath of fresh air and is a strong reminder of the masters of Japanese cinema. This is what we want to see.

The story concerns a Samurai who is down on his luck, and discovers the fate of his Ronin son in law. This sets a chain of events in motion from which there is no turning back. The film debunks all the mystique surrounding mans reverence of honour, particularly the more strict Japanese code. Here honour is mocked, and all men can see that they might suffer a sad fate if the wheel of fortune turns against them. Miike seems to be citing the Elizabethan poet John Donne who said "no man was an island entire of itself". Indeed we are all part of humanity and the roll of the dice can turn against us. What happens to one can happen to another. Decent men will sacrifice their lives all for the sake of love. The film is well acted by all, and has many memorable scenes. The wooden samurai sword is emblemic in the film, and I will not spoil your enjoyment by recalling two immensely powerful scenes. These are themes worthy to be scrutinised by the cameras lens. The film is beautiful to look at and meditative in tone. It is elegant, thoughtful and a film that confirms Miike as a legendary film maker. Like a great director Miike offers no easy answers at the films conclusion. It is for you the viewer to meditate on and come to your own conclusions. One of the few truly great films to come out in recent years. Does that redress the balance Takashi?
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on 25 January 2013
This morality tale, that leaves us thinking about its lessons, is a classy tale of poverty, love, honour, cruelty and revenge set in fudal Japan. The costumes and scenery are faithful to the period, the acting is very good, there is not much action (but there are some moments of acutely distressing suicide, japanese style), until a climactic fight in the closing scenes.
This director is maturing nicely, with his last two films approaching the brilliance of Akira Kurasowa's films of fudal Japan. I look forward to more from him.
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