If you’ve seen Pulp Fiction, then you know what one of the definitions of the word “pulp” is; a rough, unfinished work. Hanzo the Razor: Sword of Justice can be best described as such. All of the complete original negatives have been destroyed or damaged beyond complete repair, thus we end up with an edition of the film that is somewhat disjointed…but in far more ways than one. Hanzo is certainly a unique piece, but just because something is unique, that doesn’t mean it’s good.
Police officer “Razor” Hanzo (Shintarô Katsu) is a boiling pot of pissed off with legs. Hanzo’s never taken the police officer oath and as a result is heavily looked down upon by his peers. Believing in swearing himself to a corrupt system is something that Hanzo cannot stoop to. Instead, Hanzo takes his own oath: to bring justice to a world that has no justice. When Hanzo finds out that one of his superiors is in cahoots with a killer rumored to be banished, he can’t help but find a way to bring him down, if only to bring himself up the police ladder.
Hanzo the Razor is certainly not something for everyone. Hanzo is both fearsome and a knucklehead. This sort of thing gives his character a love-hate deal. On one hand, he’s not a guy anyone wants to mess with, but on another, he has the thought process of a gerbil when it comes to battle and blindly throws himself into any situation, assured that he can get out alive. The arrogance begs punishment but offers none for a character flaw. In such a respect, Hanzo comes off as too perfect, if not for the imperfections of the villains he fights.
That’s not to say that the film is unwatchable; on the contrary, the film has its novelty moments, such as rice molestation, sadism, masochism, rape, voyeurism — the list goes on. While Hanzo may preach a good game, his tactics boil down to being as bad as the guys he battles, if not worse. The torture/rape scenes mostly involve women and are just so drawn out. Re-reading the back of my PlayStation games became almost artistic during some of this. The second “interrogation” was so overdone that I practically had to hide the DVD remote just to keep myself from fast forwarding.
Hanzo has its highlights, though. The film has its funny parts. Hanzo’s “no bullshit” attitude is something that we can laugh at. His henchmen are a riot to watch, but they don’t get much screen time. Hanzo’s bizarre training is also something to marvel at, although sometimes it takes a turn for the odd. At one point in the film, there was a cut to where Hanzo was just knocking over statues with his bare fists. No reason, just kicking the crap out of stone statues. Parts like this had me throwing up my hands and just laughing at the random insanity.
I had gone into this film expecting worse than what I got from it. Hanzo the Razor isn’t a crowing achievement for anyone involved in its creation, but its not a bad experience either. I fear what the longest version of this film could have shaped up to be. Luckily, I was able to get away with a 98-minute cut. If you’re looking for a ridiculous film with some disturbing content and a take-no-prisoners hero, then give it a shot. It’s not the most satisfying experience, but there are way worse films out there.
Read Jose Cruz’s Hanzo the Razor: Sword of Justice review here.