My first doubts about this movie, Sword of the Stranger, came in the first 60 seconds when some old guy was explaining to some little boy why the kid had to flee the temple [that was burning in the background] with only the clothes on his back and his puppy companion, and the fucking PUPPY looked like he understood the sad shit that was going down better than all the humans involved. My first impression was that the dog seemed to be the smartest character in this thing... Throughout the rest of this movie I kept waiting for the pooch to suddenly say something like "Ruh row, Kotaro! Ret's not do rat! Rat rooks rangerous!"
I digress, seeing as this movie was an action adventure samurai period piece this hyper-intelligent dog really gets pushed to the background after a while... But yes, the dog is MUCH smarter than his partially retarded boy owner. But let me actually start talking about the movie now.
Sword of the Stranger is a Studio Bones motion picture, and if there's one thing that means it's "fantastic action choreography." If there's one more thing that means it's "very fast and fluid animation." One more thing?... Well, that'd be "not much of anything else." Well, that last one isn't normally true of Bones' animation, I just thought it was funny. And it was, in a sad way, seeing as it's true for this movie.
Sword of the Stranger goes a little something like this: There's this child who's wanted by some evil royal dickweeds and who's being chased by some bad-ass swordsmen simply because of who he is (which whatever the reason, they never fully explained it). This boy bumps into a wandering ronin (a masterless samurai... and if you didn't know what a ronin was in this day and age you are a serious shut-in) who's an even more bad-ass bad-ass than the fuckers chasing after this kid. Then the ronin takes the (annoying douche of a) kid under his wing and helps him make it safely to his destination, but the destination has been compromised and the kid is then taken to the royal assholes who chased after him in the first place. The ronin then goes after then kid because they bonded during their short travels, and a small item that the kid had given the ronin earlier ends up saving the swordsman's life during his big battle with the baddest of the bad-ass fuckers who'd been after the two of them the whole movie. Big Japanese happy dance party then occurs. This movie was by... the... numbers the whole way through.
Yeah, that way-too-intelligent dog (Tobimaru) comes into play a little bit, and the bad-asses are really foreigners from Ming China who are trying to secure the kid's blood (which needs to be collected at a precise time, on a precise date, on top of a huge and funky altar) for an immortality potion for their emperor... but their reasonings behind why only THIS boy would do, and what the fuck is going on beyond that short synopsis I just gave you are never made clear... And quite honestly they don't have to. This movie isn't really meant to be about anything deep or thought provoking; this movie is about some of the most incredible hand-drawn animated fight sequences you will ever see.
Forget that the nameless ronin has red hair and scars all over his body and face *COUGH* Kenshin *COUGH*... Forget that the plot is paper thin and seems to be betting all its storytelling on a probable sequel... And just ignore the fact that the main bad guy is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Chinese man (probably just raised Chinese — like the nameless ronin was a gaijin rescued from a foreign shipwreck as a child — but a blonde, giant Chinese man nonetheless)... Just focus on the mind-blowing, fast-paced action, and the awe-inspiring violence. Oh yes, the violence and the brutality! It wasn't just GORE, it was BEAUTIFUL. I might sound sick and disturbed talking about how gorgeous the blood and flying limbs are — but fuck it, they are. The style of the long and furious sword fights... The panache of the brutality... Animated perfection.
I had no real problems with the lack of plot or explanations in this thing; I just thought of it as your typical Hollywood eye-candy popcorn flick, and for that I was happy. The only thing that I really DID have a problem with was Kotaro (the annoying as rancid piss kid who's being chased through the entire movie). I just want to direct the following at every writer and director out there who thinks that making their main child character a complete and total douchebag makes him "enduringly scrappy," I must emphasize that this is NEVER the case. NEVER. YOU are a douchebag for thinking that way yourselves. I spit on your eventual graves, and I piss on your remaining families' ashes.
I'm not a prissy and princessy kind of gal. (Note from the Rossman: Yes she is.) I actually do enjoy movies that aren't always romantic comedies or star the Sex and the City girls. Like that movie about Robert Downey Jr. where he turned himself into a robot. That was a fun movie! This Swording the Stranger movie though was just a bit too much. Did they really need to show all that blood and all those heads get lopped off? Was it really necessary to place all those disemboweling right in front of the animated camera like that? (Note from the Rossman: Yes. It was awesomely necessary.)
Wow! I'm impressed!... Or is that DEpressed? The Rossman went his entire review without making one joke about "The Stranger" sexual maneuver... I doubt it's because he's getting old or has grown past that kind of thing, I'm sure it's that he's gotten old and forgotten about it. Lord knows he knows "The Stranger," or at least knew about it... Who do you think told me about it?