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Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai

Released 4 May 2012
Director Takashi Miike

Koji Yakusho, Eita, Naoto Takenaka, Hikari Mitsushima, Kazuki Namioka, Ebizo Ichikawa
Writer(s) Kikumi Yamagishi

Toshiaki Nakazawa, Jeremy Thomas
Origin Japan, United Kingdom
Running Time 126 minutes
Genre Drama

3D Suicide.

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai opens with poverty stricken ronin Hanshiro arriving at the palace of a shogun lord, begging permission to commit ritual suicide rather than face a continued life of dishonour. In an attempt to dissuade him the shogun tells Hanshiro a tale of the previous ronin to make such a request. Hanshiro follows this with a tale of his own, revealing a dark motive behind his request.

A remake of the 1962 Japanese film Harakiri, Death of a Samurai treads similar ground to director Takashi Miike’s previous film 13 Assassins. Classic samurai themes – nobility, self-sacrifice, honour, revenge – permeate the story. There are plenty of stylistic nods to the work of directors such as Akira Kurosawa, most notably the fact that so much of the story is told through well-paced flashbacks.

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai is also beautifully shot, with a strong reliance on visual storytelling rather than words. However the decision to release the film in 3D is nothing short of disastrous and actually negates much of the otherwise sumptuous cinematography.

There is no point during the 126 minute running time that the 3D effects make a positive contribution, and all too often they actually reduce the visual quality. In a film that spends so long building tension and establishing the complex society of its characters, the big set piece special effects or CGI which would normally jump off the screen in 3D are largely absent. Even the film’s final action sequence falls flat.

The reliance on visual imagery means that the disastrous 3D simply cannot be ignored. Almost every shot seems sapped of colour and slightly artificial, and it feels like you are watching the film underwater. Even the few moments where the action genuinely does leap off the screen do nothing to justify this atrocity, and pass in the blink of an eye. You’ll be so annoyed with how the heavy glasses cut into the bridge of your nose that you’ll probably miss them anyway.

The best thing that can be said about Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai is that it is a perfect example of how a good film can be ruined by the addition of 3D. There is still the bones of a great film lurking in the gloom, but it’s not worth the headache of sitting through this mess to try and uncover it.

- Bernard O’Rourke