Tak Sakaguchi is a bad, bad man. Not only has he starred in two of my favorite Japanese action flicks — “Versus” and “Death Trance”, in case you were wondering — he’s also at the forefront of the latest wave of bloody, over-the-top cinema currently streaming out of Asia at the moment. Naturally, the idea of the guy writing and directing a insane, balls-out samurai flick is exciting, which may explain why “The Blood of the Wolves” has popped up on my cinematic radar recently. After digging around a few websites this weekend, I stumbled across some information about the project at Film Smash. The important stuff has been assembled below for your convenience.
First, a wordy plot synopsis:
The Edo period – a time when samurais ruled Japan. It is the middle of the night. A long, straight road splits the darkness. A lone man walks down this rough road, a wolf by his side. From the opposite direction comes a group of ninjas, disguised in traditional Japanese masks. The man passes the group, sighs deeply and stops walking. He turns around and his sword flashes, biting deeply into the flesh of one of the ninjas. But the ninja is fast and counterattacks instantly. It’s one against many. Though the man is surrounded, he fights on. Multiple swords aim for his heart, but he deflects them and strikes the ninjas down, one after another. Fountains of blood spray through the air, but it is not the blood of the lone fighter. It is the blood of the ninjas. And finally, they all lie dead.
The name of this lone fighter is Jyubei, also known as Wolf, and anyone who looked into his eyes will feel true terror when they see the rage and hatred burning within. But Jyubei was not always this way. We flash back 18 years, to the year 1616. The Wolf was once a child who belonged to a happy family. He was nine years old, living with his father, Muneori, his mother, Orin, and his younger brother, Samon. Jyubei loves painting and art but Samon loves martial arts. Jyubei is peaceful and quiet while Samon is hot-tempered and jealous of his older brother who will inherit the family fortune.
This is the story of these two brothers and which of them will inherit the leadership of the YAGYU clan, which has been cursed with the blood of wolves flowing in their veins, and burdened by a fine, bloodthirsty Munemasa sword that is in their possession. The time has come for these two brothers to determine who will be the clan leader. Will Jyubei give in to the violence of his wolf’s blood, or will Samon die trying to reach his goal?
Okay, that “synopsis” reads more like a brief treatment than anything else, but it’s still interesting to see how Mr. Sakaguchi plans to tackle the material.
But wait, there’s more!
A statement from the man himself about the project:
When I think of exciting swordplay action, I think of Katsu Shintaro as Zatoichi or the “Lone Wolf and Cub” films or Mifune Toshiro in “Seven Samurai”. Back in the classic days of Japanese filmmaking there were realistic samurai action stories, which gave audiences an almost perfect mixture of gritty action and well-told stories. It seems that recently, there are no longer any real samurai films to be found. Cinema has lost its samurai spirit. I have often wondered why no more filmmakers are able to shoot real genre films these days. I want to revive the spirit of these filmmakers and elevate it to the next level of art. This is the ambition that has moved me to create “The Blood of Wolves”.
Contemporary action films are too safe, too weak. Their actors are untrained in real action and they are unwilling to hit each other with swords and fists, and so their action scenes lack spirit and look fake. My philosophy in making “The Blood of Wolves” is to make its action as realistic as possible. I want to show audiences truly extreme situations where real fear, real action and real excitement come together to give them a visceral, unforgettable experience.
Does this mean that Tak is slowly moving away from the cartoonishly violent movies he’s been involved with lately? It would seem so. However, a return to the gritty days of Japanese cinema isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As long as he’s making quality cinema, I honestly couldn’t care less how he goes about it.