Friday, August 27, 2010

Summer Of Samurai: Lone Wolf And Cub Baby Cart At Hades

Lone Wolf And Cub Baby Cart To Hades is a showcase for the details that make The Lone Wolf And Cub saga different from the average samurai film, or for that matter just about any action saga ever made. It all comes down to one key scene. Itto decides to save a girl who has been sold into service at a brothel, surrounded by the brothel’s hired thugs, we fully expect him, and indeed just about anyone else in his situation to get to short work making brothel guard mincemeat. After all, we’ve seen him make ground beef out of much larger crowds before.

Instead Itto elects to take the girl’s “Penalty” which involves him being tied up side down and having the holy fuck beat out of him with sticks. Why did he do that when he could have easily destroyed the other guards? To prove a point. What point is that? I don’t know because I’m not as crazy and tough as Ogami Itto.

Meet Ogami Itto, the world’s first existential action hero.

In Baby Cart To Hades Itto takes on an assignment to assassinate a corrupt magistrate, in exchange for the life of a prostitute he liberated. Along the way we meet the first person that Itto elected to not kill, despite given ample opportunity and cause. This “true samurais” story runs parallel to Itto as he deals with slightly more pressing matters, like the army that is trying to kill him.

He keeps doing things like that throughout the film, things that are not to buy into the stereotype here, but inscrutable. Whether its meeting with a rival warlord, just so the poor bastard can realize that Itto has been hired to murder him, to allowing his infant son to be “saved” by an assassin so Itto can butcher him in one of his most brutal killings, Itto keeps doing things for seemingly no other reason then his own personal satisfaction.

Lone Wolf And Cub Baby Cart To Hades has some of the series best action beats as well as its best character moments. Including the infamous scene in which Itto takes on an entire Lord Of The Rings sized army wielding every type of martial arts weaponry you’ve seen used in a movie (Insert nostalgic wax about the marvels of pre CGI filmmaking here). As the trailer for Lightning Sword’s Of Death so righteously put it, “They threw an army at him and he threw it back. One piece at a time.”

The only thing that keeps me from calling Baby Cart To Hades the series best are two ugly protracted rape scenes, both of which pass beyond their mere narrative function and sail uncomfortably far into the land of exploitive. I can’t in good conscience give the movie an unqualified recommendation with those two scenes in place.

Which is a shame because otherwise the movie is a whole mess of fun. If you keep your hand on the fast forward button, its more then worth seeing.

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