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September 20, 2005

Filed under: movies»reviews»cult

Movie Review: Six String Samurai

Six String Samurai isn't a hard movie to describe, technically. The idea is that America got nuked at the beginning of the cold war. Forty years later, the resulting wasteland is populated by strange gangs like the bowling-themed Pin Pals and cannibalistic nuclear families (pardon the pun). Out of this setting walks the nameless samurai of the title, wearing Buddy Holly glasses and a tuxedo, carrying a katana and a beautiful hollowbody '57 Gibson. Death follows him (literally, Death is portrayed as three Cowboys from Hell led by a Slash lookalike), as does a fearsome reputation.

The samurai is trying to get to Lost Vegas, which was previously ruled by the King--but Elvis has now terminally left the building, and the samurai wants to take his place. In an homage to Lone Wolf and Cub, he's joined early on by a young orphan boy (also nameless), with whom he has a contentious relationship. Together, they travel across the satirical landscape, forming a father-son bond despite themselves.

It's not a hard movie to describe, but that doesn't mean it necessarily makes any sense. By the time that the pair finishes their trip, they've defied Death, wandered the desert, stolen cars, and singlehandedly defeated a sword-wielding Soviet army. If you stop to think about any of the plot twists for too long, you'll miss the point. From its overdubbed voices, to its blatant abuse of slow motion, to its stoic protagonist, this is a loving--if twisted--sendup of the samurai genre, with Rock replacing the Bushido code as its center.

The cinematography is gorgeous, and the sound direction, once you get used to it, is perfectly fitting. Particularly noteworthy is the score, much of which was written and performed by the Red Elvises, a Russian rock band with a cameo during the first ten minutes. If I had to say it resembles anything, I'd compare it to Robert Rodriguez's work with Desparado and Once Upon A Time in Mexico: it's a glorious mess of spaghetti western and surf rock.

Not everything in Six String Samurai flows smoothly. Some of the fight scenes are overly long, and the ending is a little bit of a cheat (although it's a pretty cute cheat--let's just say it twists the movie's references on their head). You'll need to be the kind of person who enjoys this kind of bizarre, anything-goes filmmaking, and it helps to have a background in the classics of the genre. With those caveats, this is the most fun I've had from a Netflix rental in a while.

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