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‘Kingdom’ (review)

Produced by Kôji Hirano, Naoaki Kitajima,
Shinzô Matsuhashi, Ryôsuke Mori
Screenplay by Tsutomu Kuroiwa, Shinsuke Sato
Based on the manga by Yasuhisa Hara
Directed by Shinsuke Sato
Starring Kento Yamazaki, Ryo Yoshizawa,
Masami Nagasawa, Kanna Hashimoto,
Kanata Hongō, Shinnosuke Mitsushima

 

Directed by the visionary Japanese director Shinsuke Sato,  Kingdom is the new film adaptation of the manga of the same nameSato is also behind a slew of other popular live-action adaptations to some of the most popular mangas around. Titles such as Bleach, Death Note, Library Wars, and Gantz are some of the mangas he has adapted so far over his 10 year career.

Kingdom tells the story of two young war orphans in China, who are sold into slavery during the Qin Dynasty.

In this war torn land Li Xin and Piao befriend each other and swear to become the greatest sword fighters and ultimately the greatest generals the world has ever known.

Time goes by and the two boys have grown into young men. Their skills are impressive and they have developed into quite amazing swordsmen.  Fate steps in when a passing general of the Emperor’s army sees them practicing and is impressed with the young men. He chooses to take Piao with him and Li Xin is left behind but he never falters in his practices and continues to hone his skills.

After Piao dramatically returns home, mortally wounded while protecting the Emperor, He implores Li Xin to help the King reclaim his throne from the Emperor’s traitorous brother. This becomes a test of Li Xin’s skill, courage, and trust as he is tasked with defeating assassins, soldiers and a dangerous mountain clan to assist the rightful emperor in taking back what is his and help to unite the entire country in the process.

If the story sounds epic, it is because it is. Sweeping landscape shots, massive armies going to battle, and intimate deaths all culminate into what is on on par with other amazing films such as Jet Li’s Hero, and John Woo’s Red Cliff.

The colors are as rich as the landscape, from vast mountain ranges to bamboo forests this film reminds me of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, in ways and Once Upon a Time in China in others. The sword fights are fast and brutal and yet, as with many well made Asian films, not hard to follow the action, like their American counterparts can be.

This film isn’t perfect. As I have not read the manga it derives its source material from, I can not comment on how true it is to the manga. It is hokey and melodramatic at times and quite and beautiful at other times. Overall I would say that if you are looking for a solid sword and sandals style film, Asian style, then this is the film for you. I enjoyed the heck out of it and would recommend it to friends who like similar films.

The last thing I will leave you with is this: It may or may not take a minute to wrap your head around Japanese actors in a film about Chinese people and history, speaking Japanese but using Chinese names. It didn’t bother me at all but I did notice it every once and a while took me out of the film. That quickly passed as I became engrossed in the story and the visuals.

Kingdom is now playing in limited release.

 

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