What the fuck is up with Hanzo the Razor? I want to respect him as a samurai, but I just can’t get past his behavior. Here’s the #1 issue I have with his first movie, RAZOR: SWORD OF JUSTICE: the scene where he interrogates a woman by forcing himself on her, and then she ends up liking it so much she gives up the information to keep him from stopping. #2 issue: the second scene where he does that, this time with her in a net and three assistants pulling a rope to lift her up and down on him. And gentle love song type music playing while she spins on his “sword of justice,” screaming. That is fucked up, Hanzo the Razor. What kind of garbage is this?
If not for that, though, perfect movie!
I know people got mad years ago when I complained about Jason Statham’s character Chiliman Chevrolet from the CRANK movie pulling one of these “it doesn’t count as rape if you win her over before you’re done” moves, known on the streets as “the ol’ Straw Dogs.” But I haven’t changed my stance on that. It’s a misogynistic fantasy and kind of a dangerous thing to depict in movies. What kind of influence could this have on the samurai constables of the future if they grow up thinking this is how the world works?
I can’t say I completely fathom what they’re trying to do with this movie. I know there’s gotta be some cultural differences going on here, but I’d really like to know what the thinking is on this. Director Kenji Misumi also did the LONE WOLF AND CUB movies and writer Kazuo Koike did both the movies and the comics (and the comic this is based on). So he’s a genius storyteller, creator of supreme badassness and (from what I understand) critic of samurai era values. He points out the hypocrisy of these codes of honor that serve the corrupt elites more than the citizens they’re meant to protect. Like LONE WOLF’s Ogami Itto, “Razor” Hanzo Itami (Shintaro Katsu, guy who played Zatoichi, producer of this series and brother of the guy that played Itto) is an extreme figure who recognizes the evil of the system he works for. But Itto calls himself a demon while unable to avoid doing heroic things. Hanzo intentionally fights for justice while casually using barbaric techniques. Like the Punisher, maybe?
At first he seems like Serpico. He flat out refuses to sign the officer’s oath because he’s too honest. He knows his office takes bribes and it would be a lie to say otherwise. His superior Magobei Onishi (Ko Nishimura, YOJIMBO, SWORD OF DOOM) – who he maliciously calls “Snake” – is outraged, a perfect example of treating a ritual as sacred while violating its actual meaning, much like certain people who rally around the flag or the cross while being ideologically opposed to freedom or Jesus’ teachings.
Hanzo isn’t gonna back down. “Simmer down and listen!” he yells at his boss. He might get fired for that. For being more pure than the other officers. Or at least that’s what it seems like at first.
But then he goes home and… well, jesus, man. You need to know that Hanzo has, like, an eccentric lifestyle, you know what I mean? First he has his two underlings brutally torture him so he can feel for himself which techniques are the most painful and do a better job when he does it to suspects. I guess he has to know these tortures in case he ever interrogates a man. In this movie he only interrogates women, so he only does the rape one.
I mean, that’s some freaky shit, but also he gets a little alone time when he seems to be… hold on, is this what I think it is? Yes, I’m pretty sure he laid his dick out on a board and is banging it with a club. Then he cuts a hole in a basket of rice and fucks it. Again, sensual love music. Huh.
See, now days we’re used to this, because of the internet. And the movie ZOO. In the moderm world anybody that has some crazy sex thing, they like to wear diapers and a wolf costume or make little miniature hotel rooms for lobsters and make them fuck or watch all the episodes of My Little Pony or whatever sicko wacko baloney gives em a hard-on, it doesn’t matter, they will find people on the internet that do the same thing and make up lingo and a websight and now it’s officially a subculture and it’s okay. But I believe even in the modern world Hanzo would not have to join some sort of bulletin board for dick clubbers and rice bangers. He doesn’t give a fuck about your acceptance of his lifestyle. He just does what he thinks is right. Or what he thinks will turns his dick into a Kanabō.
There’s alot of talk about his dick. He admits that the pain of torture gives him a boner. A group of adversaries exchange legends of seeing his johnson, say it’s huge and covered in warts. They’re in awe of it. They say this cat Hanzo is a bad mother. From the opening moments, the wah wahs, saxophone, split screen, strutting and later freeze frame credits suggest a blaxploitation movie. He’s Shaft with a deadly shaft. The score by Kunihiko Murai is straight up funk. If you played it to somebody out of context only the Japanese lyrics on the theme song could give away its origins.
There’s other weird fetishy stuff that happens. He identifies a woman based on her not having pubic hair, and verifies it by having one of his guys pull a Chuck Berry maneuver. And there are some abstract shots during the sex scenes that I think are supposed to be, uh, some sort of internal closeups. Freaky shit. So it’s always a relief when he turns his interest away from his dick and towards cool weapons. He has spiked knuckles and little dagger things and a chain that he swings and it is a delight when we learn about the booby traps and secret compartments full of weapons hidden all over his house. He has levers he pulls that make huge spikes come out of the walls or ceiling. He uses it to kill attackers or, in one case, a lizard that gets in his house. It’s overkill, but it’s Hanzo.
This guy is so close to being one of the all time greats. I can’t judge a man for fucking rice, but I can judge him for treating women like bags of rice. I mean, they eventually go willingly into his hot tub and have sake with him. Why can’t he start with that?
But if I could set aside the sex predator stuff this would be the type of extreme character I really gravitate toward. A dude that just takes things way too far, and then moves through polite society as if he belongs there. Like Blade walking around in broad daylight with a vampire slaying samurai sword on his back. He doesn’t give a fuck. Hanzo is the same way. Yes, I have a secret arsenal hidden in a flip-over panel in the wall by my sauna. What’s wrong with that? That’s my style. That’s just my thing.
Other than the raping he has it all figured out. And he has sort of his own rehabilitation program where he catches criminals and instead of the harsh punishment the system prescribes he takes them under his wing and makes them officers of the law. Almost like how the Shadow and the Phantom get favors from the guys they saved previously. One day he’s supposed to round up transients and lock them up but he thinks that’s bullshit so instead he breaks this guy’s nose and tosses him over his shoulder telling the other officers he’s dead. Later he has the guy play dead, bloody smashed up nose and everything, as an excuse to arrest somebody. Dirty tricks.
At one point he seems to have taken badass to preposterous levels. SPOILER. It turns out to be a fake out but when he reveals bloody bandages around his torso and claims to have already slit his belly and just be holding it in for now it seems like he’s serious. Because that’s the type of shit this guy would actually do! He’s ten times crazier than Riggs.
This guy is a total freak, and that’s why the movie is amazing. The huge distance he goes over the line is obviously intended to be outrageous. It feels almost like Verhoeven doing ROBOCOP, daring you to root for this fucked up super hero. But if Robocop was going around raping people I’m not sure I would enjoy that movie as much, in my opinion. It makes it even more extreme but harder to have a fun time with.
This is the first part of a trilogy, and it seems like it was planned that way. It’s a good beginning of a story type of story, and then instead of coming to a conclusion it takes a left turn and goes into a little mini-story about euthanasia. Come to think of it, about the youth in Asia dealing with euthanasia. It’s a nice little bit about using smarts and fighting skills to get around rules and codes and put a poor old man out of his misery. And then it points toward the Razor’s future adventures.
The part of me that suppresses the existence of those rape scenes enjoys the “tune in next time” ending where he stands on a giant map, looking toward the castle, stroking his chin. I mean, it’s hard not to get swept up in the theme song describing how “the veins in his temples stand out / his lips firmly pressed together” and “his spirit snarls at the government.”
Ah, shit. I’m gonna have to watch part 2, aren’t I?
God damn it. This is like how Mike Tyson is interesting and then you remember what he did time for. An inconvenient truth. Say it ain’t so, Hanzo. You would’ve been my hero.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.