Article first published as Blu-ray Review: ‘Bushido Man: Seven Deadly Battles’ on Blogcritics.
After covering the Sundance Film Festival for five years, the only martial arts films I have seen are The Raid
and its sequel. Not that genre films are a stranger to the festival —
there are more than plenty of horror films amongst the drama and comedy.
Coming out of Montréal’s Fantasia International Film Festival is
writer/director Takanori Tsujimoto’s Bushido Man: Seven Deadly Battles. While never reaching the dizzying action heights of either Raid film, Bushido Man
takes a far more old school approach, filling the screentime with
heavily choreographed fight scenes that give some higher budget action
films a run for their money.
warrior Toramaru (Mitsuki Koga) has returned to Master Gensai
(Yoshiyuki Yamaguchi) to recount his path to becoming the most
disciplined of The Cosmic Way. Toramaru explains that in order to defeat
each of his nemeses, he had to get to know them. And what better way to
know your opponent than by what they eat. With a globetrotting
excursion pitting him against the likes of kung fu, stick fighting,
nanchaku, sword fighting, yakuza, and winding up between two gun
battles, Toramaru earns his ancient scrolls from each fighter. Even if
it means breaking his hand or slicing his own eye lids in the process.
Shout Factory karate chops Bushido Man onto Blu-ray on a
25GB disc in its 1.78:1 aspect ratio. For being such a low budget
affair, the video looks pretty good. It may never look fantastic, but
some shots do look better than others. Filmed digitally, the film takes
on a softer look than you’d expect. Contrast seems pumped up at times,
but it could have just been an extra sunny day. Detail ranges from shot
to shot, sometimes appearing like an upconverted SD transfer. When the
camera is in motion, sometimes building facades or surrounding
vegetation take on a shimmery aspect.
The video looks better than the film sounds at least. An original
Japanese language track is included but is presented in stereo PCM. The
English dub track is in 5.1 DTS-HD MA, but who wants to watch a dubbed
martial arts film. An additional English Stereo PCM track and English
subs are also included. Thankfully, dialogue is always clean, with
little to no surround activity. It gets the job done. Just keep the low
budget source in mind. As for special features, the only one included is
“The Making of Bushido Man: From the Fantasia Film Festival”
(11:17) which follows the filmmakers as they travel to Montréal for the
premiere of their film and some Q&A sessions. Pretty entertaining as
you can see the excitement of everyone involved. It’s also fun to watch
two of the stars engage in kung fu practice in their hotel room.
Bushido Man isn’t out to up the ante, but works perfectly as
a great throwback to the olden days when Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and even
Bruce Lee were in their prime. It’s mindless entertainment, but the
fight sequences are far better than some of the more high profile films
of the genre. Hopefully we see more from director Tsujimoto as there’s
real promise on display here. While not as an exhilarating debut as
Gareth Evans after his first Raid, but considering the
no-budget, Tsujimoto gets away with a lot. It helps that his
cinematographer Tetsuya Kudô captures the fights strategically, while
editors Takanori Tsujimoto and Nensuke Sonomura keep action director
Kensuke Sonomura’s choreography fluid. Definitely recommended for
martial arts fans.