SAMURAI HUSTLE RETURNS – A Review By Nick Askam

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I saw this film for opening night for the Asian Film Festival of Dallas and I’m so happy that I did. It was the world premiere and the theater was full. The atmosphere was great. Everyone in the audience was delighted that the festival was kicking off. The energy was high and people were ready to laugh. Boy, was this a treat. Despite never seeing the film that came before it, I almost felt a deep connection to each of the characters. Something about them was so charming that they literally came out into the audience in some cases.

I’m glad that the audience was laughing for this film. It was genuinely clever in some parts. Just having the audience made the film really pop. The jokes became funnier like it feels like they do in a full theater. There weren’t many jokes that didn’t get laughs and that’s always a good sign. People wanted the film to be funny and it delivered. It wasn’t like an awkward giggle but a full hearted laugh. It made the film much more enjoyable for me because I felt more connected to the film.

The film is a continuation from the original Samurai Hustle. I honestly wasn’t paying too much attention to the story because I don’t really know historical Asian culture. There’s this guy, Naito (Kuranosuke Sasaki), who wants to become a shogun and has to do a ritual. While he’s there, he’s still planning on marrying Osaki (Kyoko Fukada), but she has her doubts because she overhears Naito’s friends talking negatively about her. Naito hears that his village has started an uprising and he must return home. So he and his friends literally run home. They figure out that it’s faster for them to run constantly without sleeping or eating. The travel scenes are absolutely hilarious as they have to deal with their costumes getting in the way. When they finally get back, this guy named Matsudaira has taken over the castle and he was the bad guy in the last film apparently.

There were several things that I really enjoyed about the film, but I think what I liked most was the costumes. They just looked awesome. I never thought that anyone looked outside of their time period. I especially liked the battle armor from Matsudaira’s army. The samurai robes were also great. There were also several points where the characters clothes get wet and then they stay wet. The attention to detail was nice to see.

Another thing that I liked was that each character was well developed. There were a lot of characters, too. It was impressive that the director, Katsuhide Motoki, balanced each one out so that you’re not favoring a particular character except Naito. My favorite character was Danzo (Tsuyoshi Ihara) who didn’t really get large amounts of development, but just how his character was revealed at each part of the film was great. It made it feel like you’re connecting with him as you learn new things about him. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the names of the other characters. My favorite exchange between the secondary characters was with the kid who’s a lady charmer with a bow and arrow wanting an older townswoman and then losing out to a different samurai. The monkey was also well controlled and added an extra dimension of surprise that wouldn’t be expected without it.

The last thing that I really liked was the chemistry between Naito and Osaki. The film is mainly a love story between them and the challenges that they have between the classes that they come from. I think the main thing that will be overlooked in this film will be the nuanced conversations between the two characters. Osaki has a real struggle in her life and so does Naito, but the way that they handle it shows how different social classes solve their problems. Naito faces his problems head on, while Osaki waits for her opportunity to present her best case. The two of them together is great. They feel like they’re in love with each other and their balanced personalities were awesome to see on-screen. 

Overall, I really did enjoy the film. I thought the balancing between the characters was great. It was actually heartfelt and the score was great. I wish the villain had more of a personality but the rest of the characters had so much that I forgave it. I am super happy that I saw it in a full theater. I would recommend this film to anyone who likes samurai culture or someone who just wants to laugh. It’s a nice was to spend a couple of hours.

 

Score: 8 out of 10