Billed as ‘The Last Samurai meets Ong Bak 2’, Yamada: Way of the Samurai is perhaps more aptly described as simply, ‘The Last Samurai.’ Only with an actual samurai instead of Tom Cruise. And Muay Thai Boxers instead of samurai. And fanatic patriotism in place of any sense of narrative thrust or character evolution.
Essentially a celebration for 150 years of diplomatic relations between Thailand and Japan, Yamada chronicles a misplaced samurai, saved from assassination by a village, populated almost exclusively by scantily clad Thai boxers.
Sadly the drama never musters the energy to stretch beyond this, and the constant jingoistic drone certainly grates on viewers who aren’t a) Thai b) Japanese of c) Nationalistic to a fault. Elsewhere, poorly translated subtitles do few favours for an already forgettable tale.
DVD features include the usual fact-filled commentary from Bey Logan, trailer compilations, deleted scenes and a surprisingly interesting documentary on Thai Boxing.
Mercifully, there are a host of meticulously choreographed brawls and shockingly violent sword fights to keep you entertained. As expected, action is Yamada’s only saving grace with veteran performers Sorapon Chatree (Ong Bak 2 & 3), Thanawut Ketsaro and even staunchly loyal samurai Seigi Ozeki composing themselves magnificently.
The shots are long, wide and rarely flinch from the crack of elbow on chin or knee on rib. The film’s highlight occurs around the one hour mark, and constitutes twelve Muay Thai bodyguards decimating a 200 strong force of savages who really should have run, screaming for mercy inside of the first thirty seconds. The sequence lingers, for all the right reasons. Most of them drenched in blood!
But without anything compelling to latch onto, CG gore and bone crunching melee sequences can only do so much. Even the hardest of hardcore action titles necessitate some degree of poignant framework or emotional resonance to register a response in its audience.
Yamada lacks this.
However, at a concise 90 minutes in length, it has the decency to not overstay its welcome. Best viewed as a technical showcase, Yamada: Way of the Samurai can only, in good conscience, be recommended for bloodthirsty action fans.
And even then I suggest fast forwarding past anything lacking an elbow smashing someone’s face!
– Dolby Digital Thai 2.0 & 5.1 with English Subtitles
– Audio Commentary by Bey Logan
– Masters of the Ring Cine Asia Exclusive featurette
– Deleted Scenes
– Trailer Gallery
Format: Anamorphic, Dolby, PAL, Widescreen
Region: Region 2
Number of discs: 1
DVD Release Date: 30th Jan 2012