Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, November 2, 2001

Trust us, that's Bryan Yamasaki in a moody shot of
a guy possessed by the spirit in an ancient samurai sword.

‘Blood of the Samurai’ has
sweet action, sour script

By Gary C. W. Chun


The following is a hard-boiled review for a rough cut of a hard-boiled video. Minor changes were made that do not alter the film's outcome.

Hey, Aaron Yamasato! Yeah, you!! You think you're pretty hot stuff! One local guy who gets his action video, "Blood of the Samurai," world premiered at the film festival.

After watching your work, I think you made a great action home video you can show off to your family and friends. A really elaborate home video. As for showing this to the public, I don't know ...

Don't get me wrong. Considering that you made this with just a thousand bucks, a mini-digital video camera, a barebones script and a lot of sweat and long hours working with your friends (both on- and off-camera), you have nothing but my admiration for pulling this off. But since you're ambitious enough to want "Blood of the Samurai" to get play at a major film festival, you gotta learn to take both the praise and the criticism. And guess what I'm gonna dole out?

It looks like there's never been a low-budget Asian action or horror film you didn't like. I've never seen a video that tried to pack in so much in 75 minutes. The first 10 to 15 minutes was interesting enough -- pure eye candy, all action, trying to figure out what's going on -- and then the story starts.

Or, I should say, the acting starts. Acting with people reciting their lines. And, braddah, the script is weak! That's because everybody is either trying to sound naturalistic (you can tell, because when the characters really want to express themselves, they use a lot of swear words!) or they're mouthing the overblown sentiments typical of stock characters.

"Blood of the Samurai"

Screenings 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at Hawai'i Convention Center, and 6 p.m. Monday at Honolulu Academy of Arts Theatre

And you're depending too much on your soundtrack to set the mood. Remember, silence can be an effective mood setter for suspense.

I gotta tell you, technically, you got your s---, uh, stuff, down pat. If only your script and actors had shown as much invention as you do in your editing and camera work. I mean, if you're going to have your cast play broad archetypes, try to show me something different, maybe more tongue-in-cheek portrayals.

(By the way, regarding your camera work, I think you maxed out on your allotment of walking zoom shots halfway through the film. I thought I was gonna get sick with the constant movement!)

The story itself is a variation of a tried-and-true formula, what with two mysterious, ancient samurai swords "possessed" by spirits of former owners who, back in 16th-century Japan, fought over a maiden they loved. And when you try to tell THAT story in an extended, wordless flashback half-

way through the movie, everything comes to a halt. C'mon, why try to get all noble and sensitive? That segment works against all the violence and action -- plus the hilariously gory effects by low-budget master Screaming Mad George -- that pushes "Blood of the Samurai."

Come to think of it, I would even say there are too many fight scenes in your movie. It became tedious to sit through it all. But it did show me that your dedication to covering all angles of a scene is rock solid. Too bad this didn't do anything to move the story along.

Aaron, if you meant to kick my butt with "Blood of the Samurai," you definitely succeeded. I just wished you entertained me as much. At least you got a good resume tape out of all of this.

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