Watched another DVD I salvaged from the bottom of a bargain bin years ago and promptly forgot about: G.I. Samurai, a zany late ‘70s action flick that pits the mortars, missiles, and heavy machine guns of Japan’s modern military against the sheer ambition and tactical cunning of the power-hungry feudal lords of the Sengoku period.
Sonny Chiba (best known in the West as Hattori Hanzo in Kill Bill) plays Lieutenant Iba, the de facto leader of a ragtag group of soldiers who find themselves inexplicably stranded in the distant past, caught between warring factions and plagued by internal strife. As old rivalries escalate into full-blown mutiny, Iba gradually succumbs to the lust for blood and glory—if he can’t return to his own time, he’s certainly not going to pass up the opportunity to live life on his own terms.
While Chiba delivers an undeniably nuanced performance, he was a stunt coordinator first and foremost, and the movie shines brightest whenever he’s loosing arrows from horseback, firing a submachine gun while suspended beneath a helicopter, or charging into battle with a pistol in one hand and a katana in the other. Despite the valiant efforts of these spectacular set pieces, however, the narrative drags on a bit too long; the version I own allegedly restores approximately forty minutes of previously-excised footage… about half of which feels entirely unnecessary. Still, even after a whopping 140 minutes, the unforgettable image of armor-clad daimyo riding into combat alongside a tank never loses its novelty.
[Originally written ay 2, 2017.]