“Crazy Samurai: 400 vs. 1,” a period swashbuckler starring Tak Sakaguchi (“Versus”) as the legendary warrior Miyamoto Musashi, is wowing fans outside Japan as it moves from the international festival circuit to streaming. In North America, it hits martial arts specialist HI-YAH! on Feb. 12, 2021 under the title “Crazy Samurai Musashi.”
Digital, Blu-ray, and DVD releases follow on March 2 from Well Go USA Entertainment.
The big excitement is the film’s 77-minute single-take swordfight sequence, directed by action veteran Shimomura Yuji, in which the sweat-stained Miyamoto cuts down 400 opponents, including members of a dojo he has disgraced by beating its samurai sensei (teacher) and his son, as well as hundreds of mercenaries.
Shot nine years ago and completed seven years ago, the film sat on a shelf until independent distributor Albatros released it on 50 screens in August 2020. At the time, single-named film blogger Ronin predicted that it would finish its run with just JPY3 million ($29,000).
By comparison, the film that led the Japanese box office for the August 22-23 weekend, the romantic drama “Thread,” earned $2.5 million in its first two days. And indeed, “Crazy Samurai” was unable to cut a path into the top ten.
Critically, the reaction in Japan was mixed. Ronin praised the film’s intensity and Sakaguchi’s energy. “It was amazing, I was overwhelmed,” he wrote.
Others, however, were less impressed. On Eiga.com, Japan’s leading movie site, fan reviews average a so-so 2.9 out of 5 stars. “It looked interesting from the poster, but the sword fights were just too boring and I gave up midway,” wrote one fan in a 2.5 star review. “Sakaguchi’s power was amazing,” wrote another, who gave the film 3.0 stars. “But that was the only good thing, I thought. And that alone doesn’t make a movie.”
Fans in Japan can see the film on a wide range of streaming services, including Amazon Prime Video, Rakuten TV, Tsutaya TV and J:COM On Demand. Also, the DVD and Blu-ray dropped on Jan. 6.
Despite calls by fans for a sequel, Shimomura has not yet slotted it into his busy schedule. He is in high demand as action director with recent credits including the new Netflix series “Alice In Borderland” and last year’s hit period actioner “Kingdom.”
Also, Sakaguchi, now 45, has worked steadily since the film’s strenuous shoot nearly a decade ago, including a supporting turn in “Kingdom,” but never again in such a full-bore role. Who would — or could?