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Twilight Samurai

Japan (2002), 129 minutes
Starring: Iguchi Seibei, Rie Miyazawa, Min Tanaka, Nenji Kobayashi
Reviewer: Teri Tom
Genre: Drama, Martial Arts
Rating: 4.5

This summer, everyone thinks Peter Parker’s got problems. Hmmmmph. Try being Iguchi Seibei, the “Twilight Samurai.” He’s a samurai at a time when samurai are becoming obsolete and have been reduced to desk jobs. He’s also a single-parent widower with two daughters. And if that weren’t enough, he’s got to care for his elderly mother with Alzheimers. His childhood sweetheart is about to make another mistake in marriage. And worst of all, his fellow samurai complain about the Pigpen-like cloud trail he leaves in his wake. The man doesn’t even have time for a bath!

Hey, at least Peter Parker’s moonlighting gig is action-packed. I’d be surprised if we get more than a total of two minutes of fighting in Twilight Samurai, and that’s fine by me. As I’ve said before, I love the slash-slash-keel-over brevity of Japanese film fights. It makes them all the more special and realistic and gives us plenty of time to develop characters. Speaking of which, Hiroyuki Sanada is brilliant as a petty samurai with no ambitions, who’s gone soft raising two daughters.

The climax of this story doesn’t disappoint either with a few twists and a great, albeit short, fight – but not before some serious discussion on the follies of working for the Man.

Twilight Samurai rings true. At times, maybe for some people, a little too true for a samurai film, but that’s really its greatest strength.