by Brian McKay
As anyone who has bothered to read my stuff on this site knows, I love me some Samurai movies. I also love post-apocalyptic stories, Rockabilly music with an industrial edge (Reverend Horton Heat - BEST concert EVER), and a 50's Americana theme. Since SIX STRING SAMURAI combines all these motifs, I figured I couldn't lose with this one. Sadly, I didn't win either.Six String Samurai is the kind of movie you usually love or hate off the bat. I was on the fence, however. I wanted to like it, and after the first viewing, I went away with the overall impression that I did. I think.
"Great Concept, Poor Execution, Mediocre Results"
Then I watched it again, and realized I didn't like it that much after all. For all the good ideas and things that could have been done with this film (if it had some good writing and something approaching a budget) it drops the ball again and again.
Six String Samurai is set in a post-apocalyptic world, after the Russians nuked most of America in the 1950's. The last bastion of freedom, good old American values, and Rock N' Roll is in the Nevada free zone, with Las Vegas as the home of "The King" (presumably Elvis).
But the King has just died, and a new successor must be chosen. Out of the wastelands comes "Buddy" (Jeffrey Falcon), a skinny twerp with glasses and a dark suit who looks like he hasn't bathed in weeks. But he plays a mean gee-tar, and he wields a mean Katana. Buddy wants to contend for the throne, but he has to make it across the wastelands first, fighting mutants, cannibals, Russian soldiers (who, oddly enough, are also carrying katanas) and other wannabe contenders . . . including the Devil himself (who looks like a cross between Tom Petty and Slash - without a face).
Now, Falcon definitely looks the part of a Buddy Holly lookalike. And the lad has got some decent chops when it comes to handling the sword and doing the kung-fu moves. But damn, the acting is cardboard-stiff, and the dialogue he has to work with isn't any better.
Buddy saves a feral kid after the opening credits, and in a nod to The Road Warrior, the kid follows him everywhere through the rest of the film, despite Buddy's numerous attempts to ditch him. He also makes this loud, high pitched, whining sound - and he does it a lot. In fact, that's about all he does the whole fucking movie. Strike one.
The plot seems to be secondary, even tertiary, to what goes on in most of the film. It's usually just Buddy and the kid walking across the desert, meeting some weird characters, then fighting with them. Rinse. Repeat. While the cinematography is quite good for such a low-budget film, the meandering story makes little sense, and the dialogue is ridiculous. The woefully cheap budget of 25,000 dollars is readily apparent in such scenes as Buddy fighting the mutants (guys in "environmental suits" that consist of, get this, 5-gallon bottled water containers strapped to their back with breathing tubes coming out of them).
The fight scenes, while well-choreographed, are rendered incredibly cheesy due to the complete lack of blood. I don't know if the blood is absent because they couldn't afford it, or if the director wanted to keep a PG rating, but when Buddy cuts a swath through 100 guys, the cool swordplay is somewhat nullified by a complete lack of bloodletting. I mean, letís not kid ourselves. Sword fighting is a messy business. I don't necessarily need to see huge firehose spurts of arterial blood, ala Lone Wolf and Cub, but give me something to work with.
If there's one thing that redeems the film, it's the soundtrack. The Red Elvises provide some blistering rockabilly riffs to accompany Buddy's strumming and slaying, and the scene where Buddy engages in dueling six-strings with El Diablo is pretty sweet. Definitely a must-own for the Rockabilly fan, even if you hated the movie.
Buddy kills at least 200 people throughout the course of the film, without shedding a single drop of blood. After awhile, it gets about as exciting as a G-rated western where the hero merely shoots the gun out of the hand every time.
Carnality: No sexy women or revealing clothes were used in the making of this film. None. Whatsoever.With sharper writing, a little more money, and a lot more ingenuity, this could have been a low-budget classic along the lines of EVIL DEAD 2 or DOG SOLDIERS. As it stands, SIX STRING SAMURAI will remain an obscure and sequel-less cult classic, having achieved that status out of sheer weirdness rather than greatness.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=740&reviewer=258
originally posted: 12/11/02 13:00:06