I love a good action film, especially one that likes being an action film. There’s sufficient narrative and character development to provide the film with structure and a trajectory, but not enough to function as social commentary. Aaron Yamasato’s award-winning “Blood of the Samurai” is a fine example of such an action film. Shot mostly in Hawaii and made with only $2,000, Yamasato’s film is about two ordinary guys who channel their inner samurai…with the help of two “magical” samurai swords.
In contrast to other martial arts films where the sword slicing skills are part of the characters’ birthright, Trent (Bryan Yamasaki) and Rob (Michael Ng) acquire samurai powers by accident. The pair of best friends finds the swords in Trent’s car, and as “finder’s keepers” encourages, they keep the goods. In addition to swinging the swords around, Trent and Rob slip into the samurai clothes in which the blades were wrapped. What starts out as horseplay turns potentially deadly when Trent discovers that he and Rob have launched themselves into the middle of a 16th Century Japanese curse and a modern-day artifact-smuggling scheme. Apparently, the samurai swords were stolen from The Hunter (Shawn Forsythe). Peeved that the swords end up in the possession of two suburban Asians, The Hunter will stop at nothing to get back the blades. Dressed in a bizarre sci-fi Zorro costume and armed with crossbows, he’s silly-looking but nonetheless a formidable opponent. He kidnaps Trent’s girlfriend (Colleen Fujioka) and threatens to kill her if Trent fails to appear (alone) at a designated location.
“Blood of the Samurai” doesn’t stimulate philosophical banter, but it makes you think about what does and what ought to constitute a good action film. Yamasato gives you what you fundamentally want from an action film: spectacle. Limbs are hacked off, mists of blood spray from wounded bodies, and the good guys can’t triumph without fighting the bad guys. While “Blood of the Samurai” contains continuity errors and a few awkward transitions within scenes, the sword-fighting sequences are so much fun to watch and the cutting well-timed that technical mistakes do not weaken the overall viewing experience. Yamasato’s film is having a blast and you are too. I don’t know about you, but I certainly couldn’t ask for more.