Friday, 27 January 2012
Yamada: Way of the Samurai
YAMADA: WAY OF THE SAMURAI (aka THE SAMURAI OF AYOTHAYA)
Directed by: Nopporn Watin
Starring: Seigi Ozeki, Kanokkorn Jaicheun, Sorapong Chatree, Winai Kraibutr, Thanawut Ketsaro, Buakhao Paw Pramuk, Somjit Jongjohor, Bin Bunlureit
Brutal Thai action is front and centre for this entertaining low budget action film that entertainingly combines both an Ong Bak style action movie with a ninja flick. Based on a true event, the film sees Japanese adventurer and all round fighting badass, Yamada Nagamasa (Ozeki) learning the vicious form of fighting known as Muay Thai. Stationed out in Thailand, during the Ayothaya Era, Yamada is set up and left for dead by his fellow countrymen (those pesky evil ninjas!) but is rescued and taken in by a village of fierce Muay Thai fighting warriors. Sticking to a predictable action movie template, Yamada must first overcome hostility from the fighting tribe, only to then be accepted by them, train with them (and learn some wicked new fighting moves) and ultimately get revenge on those who left him for dead.
Despite featuring one of most predictable storylines to grace action cinema, Yamada: Way of the Samurai makes up for this thanks to some impressive production values (despite the meagre budget) an uncomplicated and unfussy approach to delivering a simple story and frequent bouts of fierce fight action. The story is very predictable but the film means well and the makers have at least put some care and heart into telling the story of Yamada. While it may not be as epic as many other Eastern historical action flicks the Ayothaya Era is authentically recreated and with combining both Japanese and Thai themes, the flick provides a refreshing take on the historical action picture. Plus, the director includes some very cool scenes of ninjas, which is a bonus for any film. The ninjas in this film are seen as deadly and mysterious warriors and despite some overacting from their (over-the-top) leader, are very cool indeed
Which brings us to the actions scenes. Bloody and brutal is the best way describe them. With a good portion of the fighting cast made up of actual Muay Thai and Olympic boxing stars, the fights scenes are, non-surprisingly, well put together and deliver maximum bone crunching impact. Thai fighters’ going up against ninjas is a new and novel approach meaning there is some nice variation to the fighting that also incorporates some ferocious swordplay. The fights are easy to follow and well choreographed and as already mentioned, very bloody and violent. Not least an epic brawl which sees our hero and his new found fighter friends taking on a horde of tattooed warriors in an epically sustained fight scene that spares no broken bones or opportunity to slash an opponent to death. If there is a downside to the fights scenes it is the over reliance on a silly speeded up/slow motion technique that interrupts the flow of the fights somewhat. It’s unnecessary (or perhaps necessary to hide the fact the fighters aren’t always making contact with their hits!?) and somewhat jarring but thankfully doesn’t overshadowed the action as a whole.
Yamada: Way of the Samurai isn’t quite up there with the best of Thai action cinema (Ong Bak, Chocolate) but it is a fine slice of Muay Thai action and a lot better than other recent low budget efforts from Thailand (Edge of the Empire, Blood Fighter).