the Goliard

January 2004

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The Last Samurai
This epic starring Tom Cruise is not terrible and tells the story of a drunken civil war hero who goes to Japan and ends up living amongst the Samurai who are falling out of favor with the rapidly modernizing government due to the fact that they tend to charge around on horseback lopping off heads. The so called last Samurai, played with appropriate coolness by Ken Watanabe resides in a scenic mountain village replete with cherry blossoms and gurgling brooks and appears a very spiritual man as he adopts Tom's character for some reason and allows him to be nurtured by his sister never minding the fact that it was Cruise that killed her husband. This particular Samurai also speaks English which is convenient and slowly allows Tom to study the warrior ways and become one with his sword and fighting stick. They then head back into battle against the emperor's army led by some of Tom's old war cronies despite the fact that they only have swords and bows and arrows and face an army with cannons, Gatling guns, and many, many more men. They get mowed down to a man of course except for Tom who walks away nearly unscathed. The fight scenes are incredible tributes to choreography and special effects and the costumes and other visuals are stunning at times but overall the movie has too many lame parts to be considered any sort of success. The violent history of the real Samurai is never acknowledged and Tom's death defying histrionics are as unbelievable as they are overblown. Tom's love interest, played by Japanese model Koyuki (above) is easy on the eyes but never develops as a character, and the historical significance of it all is not given enough explanation. Not a bad way to spend a couple hours if you don't mind taking in spraying blood, chopped body parts, occasional subtitles and Cruise's intent stares.



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