"Shinoda seems to be too focused on "events" and surprises, rather than getting mixed up in soap opera."
Owl's Castle (1999)
AKA: Owls' Castle; Fukuro No Shiro [Japanese Title]
Director: Masahiro Shinoda
Producer: Shigeaui Hazama
Cast: Kiichi Naki, Mayu Tsuruta, Riona Hazuki, Takaya Kamikawa, Toshiya Nagasawa, Jinpachi Nezu, Gaku Yamamoto, Mako Iwamatsu.
Running Time: 138 min.
Plot: In feudal Japan, a warlord named Hideyoshi is consolidating his power. On his way to ruling the country, he destroys a band of assassins, along with the women and children of the village. 10 years later, a survivor of the massacre, who watched as his village was ravaged, is now on a mission of revenge; to assassinate Hideyoshi. But in order to do so, he must sneak into the most heavily guarded castle in all of Japan.
Availability: This title is available at HKflix.com
MILKCAN'S REVIEW: NOTE: This review is based off the Dawoori disc, which, although having a nice crisp transfer, is missing a number of scenes from the extended Japanese release. For more information, check hkflix.com's "technical notes" page on the film.
Masahiro Shinoda's 1999 film "Owl's Castle" is a classic tale of revenge and affairs, of double crosses and ninjas dashing through the night. The story involves a ronin called back into action to fight against the regime who took over his village and territory long ago, attached to a selection of somewhat shallow subplots dealing with old flames, personal grudges, and rivalries. However, Shinoda doesn't get involved enough with the emotions and characters behind this movie, which doesn't necessarily distract from the film's positive elements, but it does call for a bigger, better and more complete sequel (or prequel) to be made. Shinoda seems to be too focused on "events" and surprises, rather than getting mixed up in soap opera.
But what we do get with "Owl's Castle" is a display of deep colors and smooth photography in the world of ancient Japan. Mind you, this isn't the rough and scruffy world of Kurosawa, but one that sometimes appears artificial, nevertheless being quite intriguing to look at with its blend of set pieces and some computer generated effects (the opening credits with it's eerie soundtrack is captivating). Everything in the movie is handled well- the skirmishes between characters are not blown up into Hollywood/Shaw Brothers-like extravaganzas, but instead contain quick choreography and powerful bursts of energy and precision. These elements add a much-welcomed layer of excitement over the movie. The cast is great to look at, but as stated before, Shinoda doesn't rub our faces into them enough. In fact, by the end I found myself wanting much more to come out of the story in hopes of getting to understand a little better some motivations and decisions of the characters. It's unfortunate unbalanced nature of deep-plot-little-plot and fine production values shouldn't keep you away from "Owl's Castle" though- should you decide to watch it, you will find a nice slice of entertainment for a boring evening.
MILKCAN'S RATING: 9/10