SLEEPY EYES OF DEATH: FULL CIRCLE KILLING is the strong second entry in the unusual Japanese series about the adventures of Kyoshiro Nemuri, a wandering outcast samurai who's haunted by his past and employs a deadly swordfighting technique known as the "Full Moon Cut."
Kyoshiro Nemuri (Raizo Ichikawa) witnesses Takayuki, an illegitimate son of the Shogun, testing his new sword by beheading a peasant farmer. Meanwhile, Takayuki's ruthlessly ambitious mother is bumping off the Shogun's other prospective heirs in order to assure that Takayuki will be the next
Shogun. Tajuu, the son of the dead farmer, kidnaps the sister of Takayuki's lover Konami, in an attempt to force a duel with Takayuki, but Nemuri convinces him to return the child. When Nemuri takes her home, Komani insults him and he humiliates her by slashing off her clothes and sleeping with
Konami hires a samurai to kill Nemuri, and after failing to talk him out of a duel, Nemuri kills him. When Tajuu kidnaps Konami, Takayuki captures him and is about to kill him, but stops when Nemuri agrees to trade his sword in exchange for Tajuu's life. After Takayuki's mother arranges a meeting
between Takayuki and the Shogun, she begs him not to duel Nemuri, but he defies her, egged on by Konami's admission that she allowed Nemuri to have her. Takayuki is killed during the duel, and his mother is then arrested for the murder of the Shogun's other heirs.
In keeping with this entry's colorful title, which refers to Nemuri's trademark swordfighting technique, FULL CIRCLE KILLING is more violent than other films in the SLEEPY EYES series, focusing on the oppressed peasants at the hands of the decadent rich. Takayuki's imperiousness brings out the
best and the worst in Nemuri and his innate sense of justice, inspiring him to new heights (or depths) of retribution, which is reflected in his unusual brutishness (forcing himself on Konami) and the spectacularly bloody duels. After the shocking opening sequence where Takayuki callously beheads
the farmer, Nemuri is challenged by one of Takayuki's samurai using the Iai swordfighting technique (a duel from the seated position) and calmly chops off the man's arm.
The later attempts on Nemuri's life are all ingeniously staged, including an attack on a house from a moving boat; a knife through the floor; and Nemuri running up an enormous flight of steps and chopping down dozens of assassins. Nemuri's duel with the samurai who's hired by Konami takes place in
a forest at dawn which is filled with blue-colored mist and is beautifully shot and choreographed, as is the furious finale, set on a burning bridge, where Nemuri vanquishes dozens of samurai, deflects arrows with his sword, and then kills Takayuki as they're engulfed by a torrent of flames.
Despite the emphasis on gore, there are also the customary reflective, philosophical moments, such as when Nemuri and the samurai hired to kill him discuss principles and codes of honor, while the dialogue is rife with poetic and existential observations that are typical of the series, such as
"The wind is a voice from the void," and "My karma is a bottomless pit of darkness." (Graphic violence, nudity, sexual situations.)
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- Review: SLEEPY EYES OF DEATH: FULL CIRCLE KILLING is the strong second entry in the unusual Japanese series about the adventures of Kyoshiro Nemuri, a wandering outcast samurai who's haunted by his past and employs a deadly swordfighting technique known as the "Fu… (more)