When the Last Sword is Drawn

Starring: Koichi Sato, Miki Nakatani and Kiichi Nakai
Tartan DVD
RRP: 22.99
Certificate: 15
Available 25 April 2005

Set in the last days of the Edo period in Kyoto amongst the Sinsengumi, the guards of the imperial capital, there is one man who shows outstanding skill as a swordsman. He is Kanchiro Yoshimura, an economic from the famine in northern Japan. His one sole preoccupation is self preservation, to allow him to earn enough money to send home to his starving family. His fellow samurai scorn him for his dishonest, mercenary ways. Foremost amongst his antagonists is Saito, one of the leading figures in the group. As the Kyoto government of the time disintegrates into civil war the Shinsengumi are called upon to defend their clan against the superior government troops and Kanichiro distinguishes himself time and time again in mortal combat, earning the respect of his fellow samurai and the friendship of Saito Told in retrospective by the dual memories of Kanichiro's grandson, form tales told by his father and those of an elderly, deteriorating Saito...

When the Last Sword is Drawn is a stirring, stylish and evocative look at the last days of a dying breed of men who held honour above everything else.

Yet again, Tartan has managed to do a good release of, what is fast becoming, a classic piece of Asian cinema. This film has been available on import for quite a while (I got one myself a while ago. If you got the collectors edition, you also got a letter opener?!?!) and I have to admit, when I first watched it, I fell in love.

Its a wonderful story of the past, that seems to bring the era to life so well that it almost seems like reality. This is definitely a film that would appeal to fans of The Seven Samurai and other period films.

However, it does have its low points. Some of the sentiment does seem a bit forced - as though they want you to feel sad and will stop at nothing until you are. But other than that slight complaint, it's all good.

The visuals in this film are stunning to say the least. The transfer is of very high quality and does this film an incredible amount of justice. Couple this with a fantastic DTS track on the DVD and your in business.

After watching this film, you do get a sense of sadness from it. Are the days of honour truly gone? Was this film made as a powerful piece of cinema to win awards? Or is it an attempt to make the viewer feel guilty for not making enough sacrifices within their own lives. Or perhaps they just wanted to make a damn good film that plucked the heart strings whilst still having a pleasing body-count. I think all of the above applies.

Features include, cast and crew interviews, making of featurette and deleted scenes.

Simon Lee

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