Samurai Marathon        review by Bobby Blakey

Well Go USA continues to be the premiere distribution for Asian cinema. Their latest film is a bit different than most of their straight up martial arts flicks. The film Samurai Marathon from original Candyman director Bernard Rose starring Takeru Satoh, Nana Komatsu, Mirai Moriyama, Shota Sometani and Danny Huston. Could this piece of history be brought successfully to life or will it fail to cross the finishline?

 

Samurai Marathon follows late feudal Japan, where a young ninja operates undercover in the court of an aging lord and his rebellious daughter. When the lord challenges his lazy samurai to a punishing marathon—joined covertly by Princess Yuki—the ninja finds his loyalties put to the test. Facing impossible odds, this unusual band of characters is running a race to either win or die.

 

The idea of this seemed interesting to me for not just the martial arts element, but seeing some sort of trials that test the endurance and heart of the warrior through more than just fighting. The film works fairly well, but has a fairly long and kind of slow build up. There are a lot of elements at play here leading into the varying things that play out during the race itself. I would have loved to just see the training and race itself as the focal point, but it makes sense to what they did to try to inject more emotion and purpose to the whole thing.

I was hoping for a bit more action and while there is some it never really takes center stage. That isn’t really an issue, but the mindset of ninjas and samurais interacting brings the hopes of sword battles and action. Instead there are elements on all accounts, but they are way more toned down to the race itself and a few moments sprinkled throughout. This is likely just due to the fact that we are so spoiled with all the high octane martial arts actions flicks that I’ve come to expect more of it and it just isn’t the main focus of this film.

 

I did enjoy the film and was surprised to see that it was directed by Bernard Rose who, as I mentioned before, was the writer and director of the original Candyman. He does a great job bringing this film together as it looks beautiful and is a strong and effective story, just not what I thought I was getting. The end of the film makes reference to the real life Samurai Marathon that still exists today and through some great film editing gives it a powerful final visual of the past and present.

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