23 March 2016 | Ore-Sama
I love Hideo Gosha. At his best, he mixes some of the best action sequences of any samurai film with intricate, subversive stories. However, "Death Shadow" comes off as a pale imitation of his better films.
Describing the plot is nearly impossible. We start off immediately with three men agreeing to be shadow agents before skipping ahead to see them on a raid that ends with one of them reuniting with his daughter. Then events quickly lead to said daughter becoming a shadow agent (and by quickly I mean in the first half hour), before she leaves the film for awhile as we start delving into other conflicts.
Compared with how brilliantly economical the storytelling was in films such as "Three Outlaw Samurai" and especially "Sword of the Beast", wherein a variety of interesting characters got their stories across, being fulfilling and without feeling rushed, on top of fitting in plenty of action sequences into decently short running times.
This in contrast is an absolute sprawling mess. The plot changes focus about three times within the first half of the film, and worse than that, new characters are being brought in constantly, each with their own little plot thread that seems to exist purely to pad the run time. Compared to the evolving leads in previous Gosha films, Ocho doesn't have much going for her.
One would think the increased camp factor would add some charm, but they would be sadly mistaken. It's like Gosha's trying to do the movie in the style of the Adam West Batman TV series, however he never goes far enough with it, so you just end up with a film that has a bunch of quirks sprinkled throughout in what otherwise seems to be trying to be relatively serious. I think i get the kind of tone he was going for, but it didn't work, and the film's blatant attempts to draw laughter fall flat on their face. The character of Mr Hell is particularly grating.
To give credit, the action scenes are decent for the most part, and the film has a pretty decent look to it despite some obvious cheapness, but they're not enough to make up for everything else, and even these are sorely lacking compared to the director's previous efforts.
There's not a whole lot to recommend. There's certainly worse ways to spend nearly two hours, but you can also do a lot better than this.