By Jonathan Walik
Directed by Till Kleinert
A rural German village has recently become home to a supposedly vicious wolf that has made the woods its new stomping ground. A bright eyed, earnest police officer named Jakob (Michel Diercks) is determined to resolve the situation but ends up encountering an unidentified strange man in a dress (Pit Bukowski) who is not adverse to decapitating men, women and dogs. Jakob must defeat this murderous maniac before his village is sliced down one by one. So begins a memorably bonkers thrill ride with an added healthy dose of camp that’s been sorely missing in thrillers as of late.
The psychotic antagonist of the film never named but officially known as the titular Samurai is certainly one of the more memorable villains you’re likely to have seen in a while. Forget all the rehashed and recycled monsters and baddies Hollywood insists on shelling out; this super villain is really something new. Best described as the cross dressing granddaughter of Beatrice Kiddo, mixed with a dash of Miss Havisham and with just a sprinkle of the tongue-in-cheek queerness of Hedwig. Take note Hollywood; this is how you do original villains. This samurai sword-wielding murderer is not to be messed with and he wears the hell out of a dress too.
There’s no fussing around with backstories and set ups, the tension is high from the first scene and writer-director Till Kleinert deserves major kudos for managing to sustain the suspense for 80 straight minutes. There are no romantic lulls, no over dramatic epiphanies, just one watchably bizarre scene after the next and it’s a tonne of fun to follow. Kleinert wisely avoids bringing in too many characters and keeps the focus on the chase between our hero and villain. The problem with the minimal set up is that the characters don’t end up being especially fleshed out and this is emphasised by the unexceptional acting. Pukowski keeps things fairly simple with his performance as a sexually charged killer in a dress but is unable to add much depth and subsequently elicit any empathy from the viewer. The performance succeeds largely because Pukowski adds just the right amount of tongue in cheek sensibility. Diercks fairs only a little better, playing the dedicated but naí¯ve police officer that’s in too deep. It’s the relationship between these two that make the film stand out and there’s a believable level of fear and sexual tension that keeps us interested. Although it avoids narrative clichés like dead relatives or childhood traumas as motivation it fails to provide anything more convincing. You’d think that slaughtering a village would require some serious pre-thinking and the reasoning is so bonkers that it runs the risk of treading B-movie territory. There’s a difference between camp and brainless. Hopefully you’ll be having enough fun watching heads roll not to notice these shortcomings too much anyway.
The Samurai aims to please a lot of bases. It’s got enough blood splattering kitana action to please a Tarantino fan, enough running and chasing to satisfy thrill-seekers and the titular transvestite character is sure to perk the interest of queer viewers. It’s silly and at times a little amateur but who cares when it’s this much fun. With it’s tense atmosphere, memorable villain and action elements, it should appeal to a wide range of viewers. Suspend all disbelief and enjoy the ride, The Samurai is a trip.
P.s. According to its makers, it might just be the first ever 15-rated film to feature a full boner shot. Your turn Hollywood.
Catch The Samurai over at FilmDoo today! (UK & Ireland only)