Martial arts films are especially difficult to make well on a shoestring budget. And while the producers of Blood of the Samurai certainly have a lot of passion and enthusiasm, it isn't enough to make the film successful.
The first character we're introduced to is The Hunter (Shawn Forsythe), a shadowy figure who will stop at nothing to retrieve a couple of samurai swords imbued with the spirits of their former owners. The Hunter chases down a man he believes to have the swords, shooting him multiple times with arrows, but fails to find his prize. Trent and Rob (Bryan Yamasaki and Michael Ng), are two low energy roommates who live just down the road from where the man was killed. When they discover a package containing the two swords, they are soon possessed by the spirits, and begin fighting.
The two friends' girlfriends Brooke and Roxy (Colleen Fujioka and Stephanie Sanchez) stop by just in time to step into the middle of a battle when the The Hunter arrives and demands the swords. The standoff ends with Brooke getting kidnapped and held as ransom for the powerful weapons.
After this, a lot of stuff happens, little of it coherent or engaging. Trent goes to see a reverend, who explains the backstory of the swords via extended flashback. Rob fights a random racist guy in the street. Lots of martial arts battles are had. The climax is fairly well executed, technically, for such a low budget film, but isn't emotionally or dramatically satisfying.
The performances are decent, but not great. It's clear that these are for the most part not professional actors. The story is muddled and doesn't flow very well. In a lot of ways, it's amateurish.
However, there are a number of areas in which Blood of the Samurai does quite well. Unlike a lot of low budget martial arts films, the stunt work and fight choreography are pretty good, and suggest that most of these folks have some kind of training in that area. The blood and gore effects are also exuberant and fun, thanks mostly to the efforts of work horse genre effects artist Screaming Mad George. The film also has a fun, experimental spirit, from people who probably know they aren't experts but are willing to try anyway. That kind of attitude deserves respect.
Unfortunately, this isn't enough to make a successful film. While there are elements that are impressive in isolation, the whole doesn't work. Rent it
Video is 1.33:1 standard, and has a lot of issues. It's murky, and often dark, with persistent posterization, aliasing and artifacts.
Audio is Dolby 2 channel, and also has some issues. The sound is hollow and flat, but no hiss or other interference can be heard. No subtitles or alternate audio tracks are included.
There are a few extras. They are:
This is a 21 second scene of Brooke getting beaten up while captive. Inconsequential.
This is a 26 minute short film that has the same basic story as Blood of the Samurai. It's very video game-esque. Enthusiastic but stupid.
Screaming Mad George Interview
At just under 13 minutes, this is the best extra included. Screaming Mad George has worked on a lot of cool projects in effects and makeup, including Big Trouble in Little China, Predator, Bride of Re-Animator and more. He's certainly a character, and discusses his personal philosophy of art, and the right and wrong reasons to pursue a career in special effects. Very interesting.
Blood of the Samurai is ultimately a failure, but made by a very engaged and passionate crew. There are commendable aspects, the effects and fight choreography particularly, but not enough to add up to an enjoyable experience. Hopefully, writer / director Aaron Yamasato will continue making films, and turn that enthusiasm into a quality movie.