After covering the Sundance Film Festival for five years, the only martial arts films I have seen are The Raid and its sequel. Not that genre films are a stranger to the festival — there are more than plenty of horror films amongst the drama and comedy. Coming out of Montréal’s Fantasia International Film Festival is writer/director Takanori Tsujimoto’s Bushido Man: Seven Deadly Battles. While never reaching the dizzying action heights of either Raid film, Bushido Man takes a far more old school approach, filling the screentime with heavily choreographed fight scenes that give some higher budget action films a run for their money.
Japanese warrior Toramaru (Mitsuki Koga) has returned to Master Gensai (Yoshiyuki Yamaguchi) to recount his path to becoming the most disciplined of The Cosmic Way. Toramaru explains that in order to defeat each of his nemeses, he had to get to know them. And what better way to know your opponent than by what they eat. With a globetrotting excursion pitting him against the likes of kung fu, stick fighting, nanchaku, sword fighting, yakuza, and winding up between two gun battles, Toramaru earns his ancient scrolls from each fighter. Even if it means breaking his hand or slicing his own eye lids in the process.
Shout Factory karate chops Bushido Man onto Blu-ray on a 25GB disc in its 1.78:1 aspect ratio. For being such a low budget affair, the video looks pretty good. It may never look fantastic, but some shots do look better than others. Filmed digitally, the film takes on a softer look than you’d expect. Contrast seems pumped up at times, but it could have just been an extra sunny day. Detail ranges from shot to shot, sometimes appearing like an upconverted SD transfer. When the camera is in motion, sometimes building facades or surrounding vegetation take on a shimmery aspect.
The video looks better than the film sounds at least. An original Japanese language track is included but is presented in stereo PCM. The English dub track is in 5.1 DTS-HD MA, but who wants to watch a dubbed martial arts film. An additional English Stereo PCM track and English subs are also included. Thankfully, dialogue is always clean, with little to no surround activity. It gets the job done. Just keep the low budget source in mind. As for special features, the only one included is “The Making of Bushido Man: From the Fantasia Film Festival” (11:17) which follows the filmmakers as they travel to Montréal for the premiere of their film and some Q&A sessions. Pretty entertaining as you can see the excitement of everyone involved. It’s also fun to watch two of the stars engage in kung fu practice in their hotel room.
Bushido Man isn’t out to up the ante, but works perfectly as a great throwback to the olden days when Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and even Bruce Lee were in their prime. It’s mindless entertainment, but the fight sequences are far better than some of the more high profile films of the genre. Hopefully we see more from director Tsujimoto as there’s real promise on display here. While not as an exhilarating debut as Gareth Evans after his first Raid, but considering the no-budget, Tsujimoto gets away with a lot. It helps that his cinematographer Tetsuya Kudô captures the fights strategically, while editors Takanori Tsujimoto and Nensuke Sonomura keep action director Kensuke Sonomura’s choreography fluid. Definitely recommended for martial arts fans.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00ITAQ11U][amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00ITAQ3ZY]