In the Edo era, penniless ronin have increasingly begun to approach nobles in order to ask for permission to commit ritual suicide (Hara-kiri) on their estates, hoping the resident feudal lords will pay them off to go elsewhere. Hanshiro (Ebizo Ichikawa) is one such masterless samurai who visits the House of Ii, run by the heartless Kageyu (Koji Yakusho, the hero of Thirteen Assassins). Kageyu tries to dissuade Hanshiro by recounting the fate of another samurai, Motome (Eita) who had been recently granted the same wish.
Despite the gruesome end to Kageyu’s tale, Hanshiro remainds steadfast in his desire commit hara-kiri. But right before he takes sword to stomach, Hanshiro reveals that he is the father of Miho (Hikari Mitsushima), wife of Motome, and has come to exact revenge for the death of his son-in-law.
Miike’s version is a reimagining of Masaki Kobayashi’s 1962 masterpiece, taking the story (based on a novel by Yasuhiko Takiguchi) in fresh directions with tense pacing, rich interior compositions (embellished by shooting the film in 3D), and some excellent performances by its four principles. Those expecting Miike’s brand of “extreme” cinema or Thirteen Assassins 2 might be disappointed, but while this is arguably Miike’s most mature and restrained work to date, it’s still as audacious and unconventional as anything the director has ever done.