This warrior’s tale quickly loses edge
The son of a 16th century master steel-maker is torn between following in his father’s footsteps or forging his own path as a warrior in the visually galvanizing but dramatically leaden “Tatara Samurai.”
Groomed to be his village’s next murage —a blacksmith skilled in the smelting of iron-enriched sand into a rare rustproof steel — Gosuke (Shô Aoyagi) instead heeds a personal calling to become a samurai after vicious attacks on his people by clans coveting the precious commodity.
Despite his intentions, he soon learns of the costs that can be incurred when challenging one’s destiny.
Although filmmaker Yoshinari Nishikôri has painstakingly re-created that time-honored steel-making process with an almost fetishistic attention to detail, a quality he also extends to the depiction of more common aspects of daily life in 1567 Japan, it’s unfortunate he didn’t devote an equal amount of effort to crafting a story worthy of all that ritualized precision.
Even with 15 minutes excised from its original running time and its stirring photography and good acting, the film fails to deliver on a sense of mounting tension or convincingly staged battle sequences.
Unlike those vivid, molten streams that will ultimately be transformed and crafted into the most perfect of sword blades and musket barrels, “Tatara Samurai” fails to catch fire.
“Tatara Samurai.” In Japanese with English subtitles. No rating. Running time: 2 hours. Playing: Regal LA Live Stadium 14, Los Angeles; Laemmle Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre, Beverly Hills.
NO MATTER how hard you gallop, you can’t escape a dull movie, even one with fine acting, photography.