LFF: There hasn't been a decent ninja movie for decades, but Yoichi Sai's adaptation of a story from Sanpei Shirato's legendary multi-volume manga 'Kamui' bestrides the entire gtenre: this is probably the best ninja movie ever made. Ninja are all about secret servitude, quasi-magical martial arts skills and issues of loyalty, betrayal and vengeance. 'Kamui' delivers all of the above minus the history lessons that are too often part of the deal. The Korean-Japanese director (current chair of the Directors' Guild of Japan) treats the story as a folk-tale, complete with the grizzled voice of Tsutomu Yamakazi as narrator. It's a kind of parable: Kamui, ( played by new star Kenichi Matsuyama, also in 'Bare Essence of Life') has escaped rural poverty and family ties by becoming a ninja, but now wants a kind of freedom not permitted in feudal Japan, the freedom to live his own life. The plot finds him in an area controlled by the corrupt and effete Lord Gumbei, allying himself with the fisherman Hanbei and his family and then all but press-ganged into a band of shark hunters. treachery and triple-bluffs on all sides and Kamui himself is often the prey.
MGP: A great action movie with exotic backgrounds and a solid story - once a ninja, always a ninja...or dead. The life of Kamui from childhood enrolment as a ninja through breaking away for independence to his efforts to stay alive is spiritedly portrayed with some interesting twists along the way. One or two episodes seemed puzzling though not unduly so and the downbeat ending leaves the way open for a sequel as it is obviously meant to do.