Friday, 27 April 2012
Hirokin: The Last Samurai
HIROKIN: THE LAST SAMURAI (2011)
Written & Directed by: Alejo Mo-Sun
Starring: Wes Bentley, Jessica Szohr, Angus Macfayden, Laura Ramsey & Julian Sands
This sci-fi samurai mash up is set on a distant post apocalyptic planet and sees one time American Beauty star Wes Bentley as Hirokin, a warrior hiding in the desolate lands with his wife and child. The evil Griffin (Sands) is a tyrannical warlord spreading terror across the land with his groovy looking henchmen. Hirokin and his family are captured by the evil ruler and forced to take part in a sadistic game where Hirokin must fight to save the life of his wife. Succeeding, Griffin then kills Hirokin’s wife anyway and Hirokin flees into the barren lands. Here he hooks up with a band of peace loving desert dwellers led by the enigmatic Moss (Macfayden) who teach him a new art of fighting (so not really that peace loving after all) and Hirokin (non-surprisingly) sets out for revenge and to free the land from Griffin’s rule.
A sort of cross between Patrick Swayze’s groovy Steel Dawn and a Star Trek episode, Hirokin certainly has good intentions and tries hard but unfortunately just doesn’t have the oomph to be as, well, groovy as it wants to be. For a low budget flick it certainly looks good. The desert vistas are nicely photographed and the production design is sweet: with the bad guys decked out in particularly funky evil space garb. The story is nothing new but serves the space samurai vibe well enough and there a few moments of inventive action: Hirokin’s cool sword attached to a piece of rope that he throws, spears bad guys with and then pulls back to himself so he can do it all over again. Also the sadistic game Griffin makes Hirokin and several other unfortunate bastards play is inventive and certainly eye catching with its scorpion like blades that spear people. Cool. Unfortunately, despite all the cool design and photography the film is missing two vital ingredients for this type of flick: energy and a sense of fun.
Despite the lush photography and a few neat digital effects showing Griffin’s nifty flying desert ship (ala Return of the Jedi) the film just lacks momentum. Nothing feels urgent and the narrative just seems to plod along when it should be building tension. Plus, if you’re gonna make a space samurai flick then you’ve got to have some kind of sense of fun. However, proceedings are deadly serious with lots of serious ruminations coming from Sands and Macfayden (both hamming it up) so we know they are evil and wise respectively. Things just drone on really when they should be exciting and many of the fights are also filmed in slow-mo meaning the excitement never really arrives. Things do pick towards the end with a couple of decent if all too brief fights and there is comedy relief in the form of two bumbling villagers, who are sort of funny (I guess!). It’s nice to see Wes Bentley embracing genre fare (after turns in the likes of Jonah Hex, The Hunger Games and underrated horror fare P2 and Dolan’s Cadillac) and Hirokin isn’t a bad first try from debut helmer Alejo Mo-Sun but it could have been so much more fun.