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THE LAST SAMURAI

Letís just hope it is the last samurai, at least as perpetrated by a crass Hollywood filmmaker. Joining the flippant swordplay of Kill Bill is the lugubrious mumbo-jumbo of Ed Zwickís period pseudo-epic. Tom Cruise takes the Uma Thurman role here as the white guide to the noble code of bushido (which brought such boons to mankind as Pearl Harbor and the kamikaze). As Nathan Algren, a former Seventh Cavalry officer driven to drink and a carnival sideshow because of his disgust with the Civil War and the Indian genocides, heís offered a chance to get back on his feet by training the Japanese Imperial army in the use of modern Western weapons.

The empire has been co-opted by greedy capitalists, however, and Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe), a samurai chieftain, rebels to preserve the old ways. In a disastrous battle, Katsumoto captures Nathan, and anyone who has seen Dances with Wolves can figure out the rest. Whatís more, anyone who has seen films by Akira Kurosawa, John Ford, or even George Lucas will recognize what Zwick is ineptly trying to reproduce. The action scenes are a cut above the average, and the culture clashes between Cruise and the superb Watanabe crackle with some humor. But the fulsome rhetoric and romanticized hyperbole drive home a point ó the nobility of fighting to preserve feudal fascism from the forces of corporate fascism ó thatís dangerously dumb and naive. (144 minutes)


Issue Date: December 5 - 11, 2003
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