GI Samurai is one of those movies you have to turn off your brain for. It sounds like it would be an interesting sci fi movie, but it isn’t. There’s nothing to think about here. This is a big, bold action movie with as much stupidity as action, but sometimes that kind of movie can be a lot of fun.
Director Kosei Saito only made a handful of movies and I can see why. He’s not much of a director. There doesn’t appear to be any goal here other than shooting a massive battle between modern army forces and ancient samurai armies. While that’s cool and all, it’s in the same category as that eternal question: Who would win in a fight–Batman or Superman? Some questions are better left unanswered.
The story involves a group of over-the-top wacky, Japanese soldiers who get inexplicably sent to feudal Japan along with all of their gear, including a helicopter, tank, Jeep, patrol boat, and a couple of APCs. Once there, their lieutenant, played with zest and charm by the great Sonny Chiba, forges a cautious alliance with a local daimyo and proceeds to wage war against the daimyo’s enemies. There’s no thought of rationing fuel or ammunition, and no worries about affecting the future. These idiots think that nature will correct its mistake and send them home if they just do enough to screw things up in the past. That’s right. That’s actually their big plan.
This isn’t a well-made film on any level, but it’s fun to watch–sometimes for the wrong reasons. The Mystery Science Theatre guys would have a field day with this one. It’s at least an hour too long and is plagued by pop song laden montages throughout. There’s also an abundance of time-wasting devices used to prolong the movie for no apparent reason. At one point, several soldiers take a boat and go off to rob and pillage. Lt. Iba can’t have that, so he wastes time, ammo, and fuel hunting them down and destroying the boat only to return and wage war on more innocents. What the what?!
If anyone working on this picture had any idea how to operate and handle a camera, they could have fooled me. Some of the shots are so jittery that I can imagine theatre audiences getting nauseated while watching. Blair Witch has nothing on this movie. No cinematographer is credited on IMDB. I can only imagine that the DP had his name stricken from this mess after the fact.
It sounds like I hated this film, but I didn’t. It’s just that it would be right at home alongside those cheesy 70s kung fu flicks. This isn’t art and it was never meant to be. What it has going for it is Sonny Chiba, Sonny Chiba, and Sonny Chiba. Oh, and there’s also some okay action segments, but those are dragged out to such lengths that they eventually become boring.
I’d also like to comment on something that may turn a few of you off, but I have to include it if I’m to review this in good conscience. It appears to me that quite a few horses were maimed, mutilated, and killed in the making of this crappy movie. That’s inexcusable. There are so many safe ways to deal with animals on screen that anything less than exceptional care for these innocent creatures is a crime. Today this wouldn’t be tolerated, but back in ’79, it appears to have been okay. That’s reason enough for me to suggest that you skip this crap-fest in favor of something else from the Chiba catalog. He’s been in 149 movies, some of which were brilliant. Pick one. Use a dart board if necessary.