Crazy Samurai Musashi (2020) [Fantasia Festival 2020]

An action-filled telling of Miyamoto Musashi’s most famous battle where he defeated 588 enemies, this film is a 77 minute fight sequence with intro and conclusion added around it.

Written by Sion Sono and directed by Yûji Shimomura is a technical tour de force as the 77 minute fight sequence at the heart of the film is a one-sequence, one-take battle that only the two of them with their stunt coordinator and lead actor Tak Sakaguchi who may very well be one of the rare actors able to pull this crazy stunt off. The film’s story is meant to set this up and close up the loop at the end and the writing and directing concentrate on the one fight sequence that makes up the bulk of the film. This may seem like a story that will be thin, but it’s one of the most interesting films to come out this year if only for the feat of its central battle.

Hiring Tak Sakaguchi for this possibly insane behavior was inspired casting as he bring Musashi to life in a way that gives him life, a personality, and with skills that lead to a stunning battle on screen. The film gives Sakaguchi not only the space and time to really show his fighting skills and his acting skills. Here he gives what his fans will notice as a mature performance that really shows growth from his early films. Crazy Samurai Musashi is all about the fight sequence and this fight sequence is all about Sakaguchi. Of course, other talented actors/fighters feature prominently in this film, but it’s really all about him and he makes the most of everything (and everyone) thrown at him. At first, for those who may watch without knowing the film is meant to be one long fight sequence, the film may come off as weird and like it’s lingering too long on the one thing. Then, it becomes obvious that this is all about this battle and about how many enemies they can throw at one man and have him defeat them one by one.

Supporting this battle is the fight choreography which is on point here. It’s done with what must have been hours and hours of practice so that the film could be done in one shot. The planning and rehearsing had to be meticulous to get this film down to basically perfection. The sequence is amazing to watch and while watching, one will look for cuts, but there aren’t any during that long sequence. The opening and closing are more editing and it makes sense to have them this way. The cinematography here is also something that had to be plan, rehearsed, and practiced to have it be perfectly in sync with the fighting going on. It works in and around the fight, never losing Musashi/Sakaguchi.

Crazy Samurai Musashi teams Yûji Shimomura back up with lead actor Tak Sakaguchi and shows how these two can work miracles together. Add to this team up the writing of Sion Sono and the film that comes out the other end becomes a must see even without the longest fight sequence in a film possibly ever. This is the kind of film that requires a big screen, but can’t get to one because of the pandemic, so getting it through a festival may be the only way for international audiences to see it for a while. Crazy Samurai Musashi is a must see and if there is only time for one film at Fantasia on your schedule this year, it should be this one.

The Fantasia International Film Festival runs every year, and this year runs virtually from August 20th until September 2nd.