Monday, December 27, 2010

Six-String Samurai

In keeping with the spirit of the holidays (We’re on Kwanzaa now, right?), I figured I’d do my part for all of you by finally getting around to this recommendation by BalladeersBlog, who I hope is still reading despite having suggested this back in September. Don’t worry, BB, the mail may occasionally be late but it is always delivered!

The film is set in a post-apocalyptic world in which the U.S. and Russia launched nukes at each other back in 1957, leaving most of the world a smoking ruin. The last remnants of civilization all managed to band together in the city of Lost Vegas, which was ruled by Elvis for forty years until his tragic recent death. As the new power vacuum has bred an increasing amount of violence across the land, we must turn to a new hero in Buddy (Jeffrey Falcon) a guitarist and samurai who is traveling across the desert, along with a kid (Justin McGuire) that he rescued, to Lost Vegas to play at a gig there. Along the way he must do battle with a colorful variety of adversaries, from a group of cavemen in a pickup truck to a Soviet army to Death (who really hates rockers). It seems a little much just for the chance to play guitar.

This was kind of an odd film to watch, and I’m honestly not sure if I just didn’t “get” it, to put it in a term that I rather hate. The film doesn’t have any real overarching narrative, instead playing out as the pair traveling to one location, getting into a battle, going to another location, getting into a battle, etc. all done in a very laid-back manner with constant surf guitar playing by the Red Elvises. It’s pleasant enough for what it is, but what it is is very slight. The villains are colorful and fun, but they don’t really get much more depth than their appearances (in fact, neither does the hero -- there’s rather a shortage of dialogue in this film, which only increases the feeling of the film being padded), so as cool as it may look to see, say, the cavemen riding around in their pickups, grunting at each other and attacking Buddy with femur bones, it could have been a lot better if we had been given an actual reason to care about any of this.

A great example of the padding this film contains comes towards the end of the film, when Buddy is fighting with Death and his henchmen. There’s three of the henchmen, armed with bows, while Buddy has his sword. One archer fires, and Buddy slaps the arrow away with his sword. Then two of them fire, and he slaps both arrows away. Then all three fire, and he starts rolling around, leaping, doing cartwheels, and so on, as they fire again and again and again, long past the point when all of this has grown tiresome. This, and similar moments in the film, seem like they were being stretched out long past where they should have been just to get the film to a 90 minute running time. I’ve said it before, and it’s something co-writer/director Lance Mungia should take to heart if he ever makes another film (as of yet, the only thing he’s made in the twelve years since this film’s release was 2005’s The Crow: Wicked Prayer): there is no shame in making a film that’s only 70 or 80 minutes long. If you don’t have the material for a legitimate 90 minute feature, any attempts you make at artificially increasing the length are only going to make the movie worse, and leave the audience a good deal less satisfied than they’d have been with a shorter, tighter film.

Like I said, this isn’t a bad film at all, it’s just rather light and fluffy and inconsequential, like a more child-friendly early effort by Robert Rodriguez. You know, with surfer music and lots of slow-motion jumping, and a rather terrible scene where the kid decides to fake cry so that Buddy will do backflips and hand walks to try to cheer him up. Because nothing makes a film better than a child loudly crying, right? Indeed, the very concept of a rocker going around constantly getting in wild battles was soon to be perfected in the Japanese epic Wild Zero, which came out a brief two years later. So if you’re reading this, BalladeersBlog, I’m sorry I didn’t think your recommendation was that great, but by all means recommend another one. Just maybe a better one next time, thanks.

Rating: **

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