Saturday, February 17, 2007

Hanzo 1

by Charlie ParsleyHanzo the Razor: Sword of Justice from Toho Company Ltd.During the time that the series of films about Hanzo the samurai were made, cultural adventurousness allowed more open expressions of violent as well as sexual interactions. Therefore, the films about Hanzo contain scenes of adult situations.The Japanese film opens with a funky tune from a jazz combo not unlike the tracks from classic blaxploitation films from the late seventies. It is very American sounding music to my ears and I envision taxicabs zipping through the grimy streets of an urban ghetto. Instead, the camera shows us the tiled roofs and pebbled pathways of a Japanese town. Perhaps it is a gritty Japanese ghetto riddled with criminals like any blighted urban area, but the austerity of the architecture in its gentle gray tones and the subdued manner of its people create a quaint and picturesque setting. It is free of neon signage and streetlights and purple Monte Carlos. The porno-style chicka-bomp seems out of place here and yet there it is.And here comes Hanzo the samurai strutting down the street like Travolta, on his way to a meeting of the local samurai. Their purpose is to provide security and legal enforcement just like American police. However, just like American police, they are inclined to accept bribery and overlook certain law breaking activities as it suits their tastes. Hanzo refuses to cooperate with these unjust practices and confronts the head magistrate about this. Honzo is the loose cannon that won’t accept the corruption. He does not accept excuses that pass responsibility of legal enforcement on to other agencies. He intends to follow the true mission of the samurai and shed light on the injustices of his peers and open their eyes to their misdeeds, a very noble although somewhat typical way to begin a rogue cop film.The first task Hanzo sets for himself on this mission is to subject himself to the types of torture that is inflicted upon the criminals that are prosecuted. This relates to the current trend of police officers zapping each other with tasers. The intention is for the officers to experience what the criminals will be experiencing, but perhaps there is more to it than that. When Hanzo emerges from the tortures he has subjected himself to, his fellow samurai observe that Hanzo’s masculinity has been fully stimulated. The funky music returns to compliment the mysterious and wonderful relationship of pleasure and pain, of sex and violence.Hanzo sets about his work enforcing the local laws and pursuing informants that will direct him towards his goals. After his beat on the street, he reenergizes himself in a type of gymnasium-bathhouse. It is specially designed to provide a workout to strengthen the source of Hanzo’s power and determination: his dick. Cue funky music, but this time with a mellow and leisurely vibe. He invigorates it with icy cold water. He toughens it strikes from a wooden stick. He fortifies it in some interesting ways, and he is then prepared to continue his mission.The men that Hanzo captures to draw information from are pierced with knives and swords, resulting in broken noses and opportunities to display graphic depictions of spurting blood. A female suspect is among those Hanzo intends to question. His approach for her is quite different and we know that Hanzo is well prepared for it. Once he has captured her, he uses his weapon to make her talk. Whereas the men will beg Hanzo to stop stabbing them with swords, the woman begs Hanzo to not stop, for when he does stop, her screaming is as loud as the others. He places his meatsword back inside of her, stating: “this will make it easier for you to talk.”The other samurai are aware of Hanzo’s exceptional abilities and they comment on the large size of his weaponry, confirming the suspicions of this viewer who is familiar with this type of artillery. As with all films, exaggeration enhances drama.

Overall, the film has a subdued and spacious quality to it. Most scenes are spoken dialogue without music. This peacefulness highlights the sharp screaming from the scenes of violence when bringing the criminals to justice. It can become quite unsettling when unexpected. Because there is no music during the usual business of the film, when the funky music comes in the viewer knows to set aside the snack bowl and pay attention.This writer learned a few interesting things from Hanzo. In one scene where Hanzo is confronting some criminals, they threaten him with violence. Hanzo then drops his kimono and reveals to them the scars he has from his tortures, explaining that he has no fear of that. I myself have a missing tooth, and I have felt that because I have experienced an abrupt and unclinical removal of such, I am not afraid of a situation where this might happen again.Hanzo is lucky enough to have another female informant to question and she is lucky enough to have Hanzo find her. He has her bound up and suspended in a net above a platform and he tortures her in his unique way. Without going into salacious detail, the writer will simply state that Hanzo’s techniques are breathtaking. I have used the word lucky in the first sentence, but I will observe that Hanzo does not appear to feel lucky or act pleased with his work. He is simply carrying out his duties. The females, however, repeatedly ask him not to stop doing what he is doing, for when he stops, this is the torture. Perhaps it says more about the writer than the characters to use the word lucky.I will conclude with that thought provoking observation. I appreciate why this assignment was given to me because I learned something from it.


odienator said...

This guy sounds like the Japanese version of Shaft, or that movie I saw when I was a kid where the guy screws the women and it's so good their houses blow up.

Blaxploitation goes to Japan. Gotta see this one!

Wagstaff said...

Hanzo is a lot like Shaft, and it came out just one year later.