“Hanzo the Razor: Sword of Justice” – Jose Cruz

While watching Hanzo the Razor: Sword of Justice (the first film in a trilogy), two genres came to mind: the samurai genre (perfected by Japanese directors like Akira Kurosawa) and the “cop” film, which has its roots in film noir. Hanzo looks like a period piece samurai flick, but it has the conventions and plot elements of the latter genre. It might have been a more effective blend, if it had the chops to take itself more seriously.

Taking place during Japan’s Edo period, our story begins with Hanzo “The Razor” Itami (Shintaro Katsu) at a police initiation ceremony. The Razor refuses to take the appropriate oath (which he apparently has many times) in order to achieve a higher rank, because of the corrupt practices his superiors engage in. But soon it is revealed that Hanzo participates in some questionable dealings himself, one in particular informing him of an inmate that’s escaped from prison. In true cop thriller fashion, he spends much of the film searching for both answers and justice.

It may seem pretty straightforward, but Hanzo takes a different and more humorous approach. For example, as part of his intense training, not only does he torture himself, but he also beats a certain part of the male anatomy. The blood is also used to a comic level, with it being watery and used excessively at times. It takes the audience’s idea of what a samurai should be (honorable, proud, modest, etc.) and makes Hanzo into a true anti-hero, a character you don’t necessarily like.

One of the main flaws, both with the film and the main character, is the misogynistic aspect. At two points, Hanzo uses rape to question and interrogate women; rather than resist, they promptly ask him to continue if he wants answers out of them. This presents the assumption that women actually want to be raped; all they need is a good “dicking,” and they’ll be putty in your hands. Said women are also treated as property, passed into Hanzo’s “ownership” once he’s done with them.

I may be reading too much into it, but then again, Hanzo isn’t a guy you can really root for. He claims that his superiors are corrupt, yet at the same time, he rapes, kills, and takes part in other questionable dealings with criminals. On the other hand, this is all shown in a rather comedic light, and I’m not meant to judge Sword of Justice so strictly. But the duality of the character cannot be presented in the right context with a movie that doesn’t really take itself seriously.

Rating: ★½☆☆

-Jose Cruz

Jose is an English major at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. As of January 2009, he writes film reviews for the campus newspaper, the Student Voice.

Read Chris Luedtke’s Hanzo the Razor: Sword of Justice review here.

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