Tadanobu Asano - Shanao
Masatoshi Nagase - Tetsukichi
Daisuke Ryu - Benkei
Masakatsu Funaki - Tankai
Jun Kunimura - Suzaku-hougan
Urara Awata - Asagiri
Wui Sin Chong - Shoshinbo
Ryo Kase - Kamuro
“Gojoe” is set in ancient Japan, and the opening narration informs us that it’s a “dark time” for the country. In the aftermath of a bloody civil war for control of a local countryside, a “demon” entity has appeared to slaughter the soldiers of the winning side. Into the fray walks Benkei (Daisuke Ryu), a monk who was once a murderer of some renown. Benkei is intent on stopping the demon, believing that this action may, once and for all, cleanse his tortured soul of his murderous past.
As Benkei sets about hunting the demon with the help of Tetsukichi (Masatoshi Nagase), a former swordsmith who has given up the craft to steal swords of dead men killed by the demon, the film begins to shift gears. When Benkei encounters the demon for the first time, it becomes readily apparent that the “demon” is actually 3 swordsmen with terrifying, but awesome, killing abilities. The trio is led by Shanao (Tadanobu Asano), a Prince who survived the bloody civil war that saw most of his family dead; Shanao is originally intent on vengeance, but that quickly gives way to something else — something much more seductive…
“Gojoe” uses the word, and the meaning of, “demon” in many forms. Benkei himself is called a demon, not because he has monstrous features, but because of his monstrous past. Shanao, by the same token, has become such a relentless killing machine that his soul no longer resembles that of a man’s. Although compared to the brutish Benkei, the effeminate and regal Shanao seems like a mere pretender to the throne. When the two first meet, the intensity boils to unbearable proportions even though they never attack each other.
This was definitely a dark, DARK movie. I guess that would be expected from a Asano film. But respectively, it wasn't overly gory or harsh. The feelings of the movie were that of sorrow and remorse.
Supposedly the dark ages, Japan style, this movie got a wee bit confusing. I guess I really didn't know who to route for. Understandibly Shanao took revenge on the Heike clan because his family were murdered when he was a young boy. So it wasn't like he was just out to murder people because he felt like it, but yet as time went on revenge was no longer a factor. I think at that point his character felt that to become great he had to beat a certain force that was holding him back.....hence, Benkei.
Benkei came across as this great guy who was seen as the bad guy but yet as we go on in the story, he had used to be a bad guy and gone into "monk-dom" (Is that even a word? LOL!) to cleanse his soul of his wrong doings. While in seclusion, a supposed god came to him in a dream and told him to kill the two headed demon.
The story goes on...slowly...but this story was more interesting when it came upon Tetsukichi. I thought he was more fascinating and his history should have been more delved into. Ahh...but that is movie life. Ehh.
But in all, the movie was pretty good. Another best rented than seen at the movies. Asano Tadanobu, again, rocked my world.