If the Criterion Collection puts out a title on DVD, I always pay attention. I’ve hated some of them, but I never wonder why they put it out. KILL! is one of the titles that I never heard of, but now know why they found it worthy.
It’s like YOJIMBO crossed with THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY with dashes of slapstick humor that you’d find in TOM JONES. In fact, the book the film is based off of is the same Akira Kurosawa used as the basis for his YOJIMBO sequel, SANJURO. If I had any complaint with the film it would be that I lost track of the numerous characters very quickly. However, I loved the film anyway and wouldn’t know what to cut if asked.
Genta (Tatsuya Nakadai, RAN) is a former samurai who has lost the taste for fighting. Hungry, he runs into a young farmer named Tabata (Etsushi Takahashi, ZATOICHI AT LARGE), who dreams of becoming a samurai. Both men end up getting caught between sides in a civil war between factions of a samurai clan, lead by corrupt chamberlain Ayuzama (Shigeru Koyama, ZATOICHI MEETS YOJIMBO). Leading the seven rebels is Tetsutaro (Naoko Kubo, ZATOICHI'S FLASHING SWORD), who is in love with the beautiful Chino (Yuriko Hoshi, GHIDRAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER), however he is not the only one of the rebels who loves her, which makes for some tension when they are all holed up in a cabin in the woods. Complication after complication pile one on top of the other. There are a lot of other key characters that I didn’t mention, but to list them all would be tough and would give away too many of the film’s surprises.