Punk Samurai Slash Down is a 2018 Japanese period action/drama, written by Kankurô Kudô and directed by Gakuryû Ishii (formerly known as Sogo Ishii). The film is based on the novel Panku-zamurai, kirarete sôrô penned by author Kou Machida. Ishii is most notable for his Jishu eiga (self-made films) such as Charge! Hakata Gangsters (1978), Panic High School (1977), and Anarchy ’80 Ishin (1981), as well as larger-scale productions such as Crazy Thunder Road (1980), and Electric Dragon 80.000 V (2001).

In search of employment and a more permanent position in life after having committed murder, the ronin Kake Junoshin tells the Kurokaze Han clan that a religious cult is aiming for their destruction. This persuades them to accept him, but he is soon condemned and arrested. Sentenced to death and awaiting his end, he has to be quick on his feet to figure out a way to get himself out of this self-dug hole.

A well-known staple of Japanese cinema, the samurai genre is a transcendentally versatile medium for film. Often likened to the Eastern equivalent of both the simple life dramas of early American westerns and the amazingly gritty violence of Italian Spaghetti Westerns; these films from different continents display similar sentiments of honour, corrupt local politics, and the inevitable triumph of good over evil. However, with the likes of Sogo Ishii behind the camera, Punk Samurai Slash Down is hardly typical of the standard Jidaigeki films of Akira Kurosowa, Daisuke Itō, or Tokuzo Tanaka. Undoubtedly, Ishii’s idiosyncratic visual style, paired perfectly with Kou Machida’s original source material’s slapstick comedy and modern-day references, creates an incredibly experimental take on the traditional style of Jidaigeki.

Featuring narration (as well as an astounding performance) by Masatoshi Nagase, the story is amazingly fluid in its progression for such a lengthy production. Continuously evolving from a tale of corruption and betrayal, then into an all-out war to save Japan from an apocalyptic cult, the film utilises a thorough 130-minute runtime to deliver an unhurried, story-driven experience whilst managing to maintain effective pacing throughout. The grandiose scale is certainly a divergence from the typically small productions Ishii is most beloved for; nevertheless, the film is emphatically reminiscent of his early Jishu Eiga.

Visually stunning from start to finish, Punk Samurai Slash Down’s contrivance of indefatigable cinematography synonymous with Ishii’s vision, along with a highly saturated colour scheme and intermittent, Sin City-esc CGI backgrounds, cultivates an astoundingly kinetic visualisation of Kou Machida’s original story.

Additionally, the implementation of different methods to illustrate flashbacks is an effective separation from the present tense, diligently delivering key plot points as well as a compelling transposition from the film’s live-action basis by adding an enjoyably unorthodox dimension to the film. Deploying the means of paper plays, marionette puppets, and even 3D CGI; this sporadic diversion from the conventional live-action display is, undoubtedly, a welcome respite, providing an enjoyably unique display of plot points which could have instead been delivered as regular but dull info dumps.

Furthermore, the addition of a modern score to the period visuals of Punk Samurai Slash Down is a bizarre flip of the usual formula that fits seamlessly. Popular rock and punk songs from the likes of the Sex Pistols’ Anarchy in the UK, The Hit Crew’s instrumental version of House of the Rising Sun, as well as a number of other classics, are an unexpectedly apt accompaniment to this audacious reimagining of Jidaigeki cinema.

A perfect blend of a traditional Edo-period drama, schoolyard buffoonery, and Ishii’s unique vision of anarchistic cinema, Punk Samurai Slash Down is undoubtedly one of the most ambitious films the director ever created. With the energetic performances from the entirety of its huge cast, distinctly unique plot, and subversive soundtrack; the production is sure to take first-time viewers by surprise—especially those unfamiliar with Ishii’s eccentric style of filmmaking.


Punk Samurai Slash Down is available to purchase here

More from Third Window Films