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Review: Hara-Kiri – Death Of A Samurai

BUSAN, South Korea — Takashi Miike’s latest entry in the samurai epic genre attempts to answer these questions, following the tale of a poverty-stricken family who resort to a dire method in an attempt to survive.  While not as finely tuned as Miike’s Thirteen Assassins, Hara-Kiri still manages to execute its superb premise in an entertaining and ponderously touching manner.  The story begins with a Ronin who presents himself to his Lordship to request the right to commit ritual suicide in one of the highest royal houses of the region.  The Lord illustrates that his intent is suspect, and proceeds to tell the Ronin a story of a young samurai who previously made the same request, but turned out to be bluffing in an attempt to earn pity and charity.

Fans of Miike who may be looking to indulge in his usual orgy of violence and style may be largely disappointed, as the relatively tame narrative structure of Hara-Kiri reins the director in even further from Thirteen Assassins.  That’s not to say that it isn’t a welcome change, because Hara-Kiri  benefits greatly from Miike’s restraint (in most places).  This is far from being the sword clashing epic of Miike’s previous samurai film, the largely dramatic narrative takes its time to build sympathy for the characters through a retelling of the events.  While the first act is immediately engrossing, Miike seems to falter slightly with tone and pacing in the second act.  Moments of grief, which should be punctuated by tremendous performances, fall a bit flat due to some awkward delivery.  There is still a great sense of weight and resonance in the tragedies that befall the protagonists, but one can’t help but feel as though it could and should have been more affecting with better takes from the actors.

Thankfully, the third act delivers on the promise of the first, bringing about an awesome and satisfying close.  Miike saves the best for last; he resists the urge to pepper large sword fights throughout the film, resulting in a conclusion that packs a real punch.  Hara-Kiri is not a violent film, but Miike does linger far too long on a gut-churning sequence that really could have been cut short (you’ll know the scene when you see it).  Most frustrating is the completely unnecessary use of a 3D conversion, which neuters the cinematography and production design.  There is not a single moment in the film that begs to be seen in 3D, and it’s a clear possibility that Miike might have been forced to convert the film to 3D in post-production to bolster the box office gross.  If you miss this at the festival, try to see it without the 3D glasses.

It’s a real pleasure to start BIFF off with a film that is as complete and concise as Hara-Kiri.  Miike seems to be reviving the samurai epic with his two gracefully executed period pieces.  While Thirteen Assassins speaks volumes about how far a samurai’s honorable intentions can carry him, Hara-Kiri is a commentary that runs contrary to those notions.  Instead of romanticizing the era of the samurai like the former film, Hara-Kiri is a powerful look at the tragedy that can befall the men who see the code as being less than human.


Lotte Cinema Centum City 5

Oct 12 12:30



Busan Cinema Center Cinema 1

Oct 7 09:30



Lotte Cinema Centum City 4

Oct 9 19:30


Full Coverage




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