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Lone Wolf and Cub

Steven - AV April 08, 2017

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Lone Wolf and Cub is a series of six samurai films following Ittō Ogami, a wandering assassin-for-hire who pushes his young son, Daigorō, along the road in a baby cart. Ogami relies on his considerable fighting skill and resourcefulness to overcome opponents, and though all the films feature simple plots, they’re notable for their stylized, increasingly cartoonish fights. Characters leap to impossible heights. They signify their deaths with absurd red fountains. Ogami constantly reveals that he’s booby-trapped the baby cart with bladed wheels and machine guns and other weapons. Tomisaburo Wakayama portrays the character with a constant scowl and a piercing glare alongside a credible fighting ability, and in fitting with the character, the actor looks more like a villain's most powerful henchman than a traditional hero. The series does, however, fall pretty constantly into scenes of troubling sexism; you start to expect something horrible any time a woman appears onscreen, and it feels exploitive even when you consider the time period portrayed. And though the movies are filmed with style (all sweaty close-ups and striking colors and harsh shadows), they do peak early – the first looks the best, and the second is the most engaging with near-constant action. While the others (except maybe the fourth) remain quite entertaining, inventive, and admirably consistent, they don’t recapture the quality of the series when it was fresh. All the films are available in subtitled Japanese, though this release also includes Shogun Assassin, an English language version that edits together parts of the first and second films. Overall Rating: B+

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