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November 9, 2011

By John Leavengood

MY CALL: Revenge is an act of style—one that no Kill Bill fan should miss. If you are careful about your expectations, this movie could be a great pick for you. [B+]  IF YOU LIKE THIS, WATCH: Kill Bill, The Good The Bad and The Weird, The Warrior’s Way, Sin City…maybe even Sucker Punch (which wasn’t good, but had some great scenes and ideas).  SIDEBAR: I have no idea what the name of the movie means.  If they mentioned it in the movie, I missed it, and I miss little in movies.

This appears to be another take on genre-crossing in a genre-style movie.  Previous examples include the wildly successful Sin City movies, popular western splices like The Good The Bad and The Weird and The Warrior’s Way, and the stillborn Sucker Punch.  But all these movies were well-advertised and wide theatrical releases (in Asia, at least, for The Good The Bad and The Weird).  Should I approach this lack of advertising as a snake’s rattle and keep my expectations low?  When I stumbled across this I thought “This movie features Josh Hartnett, Demi Moore, Ron Perlman, Gackt, Woody Harrelson and Kevin McKidd, and I had never heard of it or saw a trailer.  How does that happen?  Is this a weird little gem waiting to be discovered, or an utter Sucker Punch tragedy?”

The opening credits are cleverly presented during an animated story background.  The style was much like that of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One or Hellboy 2: The Golden Army.  When moviemakers really care about a movie, they make an effort to have the opening credits “affect” the viewer somehow.  Even if it’s only music over a black screen, moods are set and pace is foreshadowed.  I’ve commented on the great opening credits of The Good The Bad and The Weird, and that movie was awesome.  This made for a promising start.

In this perhaps futuristic world guns have somehow been banned, making way for a resurgence in swordsmanship and a feudal yakuza-esque gang culture.  A young, Doc Holidayish brawler (Hartnett) and a swordless samurai team up to exact their revenge against the ruthless king of the hill, “The Woodsman” (Perlman).  To do so, they must kill their way through leagues of henchman and his  nine right hand men, one of which is played by a sleek Kevin McKidd.

This film is VERY stylistic.  The effects and music smack of Scott Pilgrim versus The World with comic book stylings of villainy and storyline much like Kill Bill.  The combat follows suit, with choreography focusing more on a dance-like technical precision than producing a realistic fight. It’s more like theater than cinema.  In fact, the set designers erected intentionally artificial-looking structures in order to unsubtly accent this feeling.  Sets and wardrobe contain elements of the present, the future, the old west, and the early 1900’s.  Many theatrical devices are employed as well.  All of this synergistically produces an other-worldly feel.

The style of this movie is rare and difficult to execute. The fights are fun, the scenes are clever, and (with the exception of Demi Moore’s role) the characters were interesting.

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