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Film review: Mumon - The Land of Stealth

Arts & Culture

The opening film for this year’s Japanese Film Festival is a ninja vs samurai action comedy loosely based on real historical events from the 16th century.

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Mumon (played by Satoshi Ohno, but more of him later) is the region’s best ninja – stealthy, cunning, athletic and, well, lazy. The only impetus for him to carry out his work is the temptations of his gorgeous, but until now, chaste wife Okuni (Satomi Ishihara from Attack on Titan and Shin Godzilla).

When the warring samurai group, led by the fresh-faced, petulant Oda Nobukatsu (boy-band idol Yuri Chinen), conducts a pincer attack on Mumon’s province, he has to decide whether to stay and fight or make a hasty escape.

Directed by Yoshihiro Nakamura, the film clips along at a solid pace, its many plot twists and turns fuelling myriad excuses for more fight scenes.

Like many Japanese films, the Mumon story has traversed novel and manga forms to get to this live-action version (surely an anime can’t be far away?). While there’s bravery and honour at stake, the comedy gold is in the blatant cowardice and avarice of many of the characters, especially the mercenary ninjas.

Satoshi Ohno is cast beautifully as Mumon, with his boy-band (now man-band?) Arashi providing some of the soundtrack, and his various skills in acting and choreography being used to full advantage here.

The samurai are guided by turncoat Heibee Shimoyama, played by the chiselled Ryohei Suzuki, who you may recognise as the lead in the Hentai Kamen (Masked Pervert) comedies.

There are lashings of violence, as expected. But really, ninja vs samurai, and mostly played for laughs, how good is that!

Mumon: The Land of Stealth will screen again tomorrow (Saturday night) as part of the Japanese Film Festival. See the full festival program here.

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