Saturday, July 15, 2023

#2,918. Six String Samurai (1998) - Films of the 1990s


The setting is an alternate timeline of U.S. history, a post-apocalyptic American West left decimated when the country was bombed and invaded by the Russians in 1957. In this new society, the city of Las Vegas, renamed “Lost Vegas”, stands as the nation’s cultural center.

Or its new capital. Or maybe it’s just the only metropolitan area that remains. We’re never quite sure.

Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll who was also crowned the King of Lost Vegas, an honor he held for the last 40 years, has died, and a call goes out for a new king to take his place.

Directed by Lance Mungia, Six String Samurai is a highly stylized version of The Buddy Holly Story nestled within a world that is a cross between 1979’s The Warriors, every Mad Max movie ever made, and Japan’s Lone Wolf and Cub series.

OK, it’s a lot less The Buddy Holly Story than it is the other three, but the lead character, played by Jeffrey Falcon (who co-wrote the script with Mungia), is unmistakably based on Holly, the singer / songwriter who, before his untimely death in 1959, hit the rock charts with such early classics as “That’ll Be the Day”, “Maybe Baby” and “Peggy Sue”.

After rescuing a boy (Justin McGuire) whose mother was killed by marauders, Buddy, armed with a guitar that doubles as a sheath for his samurai sword, sets off for Lost Vegas to claim his place as the city’s next King. The boy, now alone, follows Buddy, and try as he might, the rocker / warrior can’t seem to shake the youngster.

Six String Samurai is a fast, frantic, funny movie that admittedly suffers on occasion from so-so action sequences. I wasn’t always a fan of how Buddy’s fights were shot, and even less of a fan of their haphazard editing. More than once, these showdowns, which should have been the film’s most exciting, felt less energetic than the rest of the movie.

Still, there’s a ton of imagination on display here, with Falcon giving off an Eastwood / Man with No Name vibe as Buddy; and the movie is jam-packed with characters and locales that are as engaging as they are unpredictable. You never quite know what is going to happen next in this movie. Every time our hero enters another territory, he is besieged by new, often more dangerous enemies, the deadliest being Death in a Top Hat (Stephane Gauger) and his band of heavy metal rockers, who are hot on Buddy’s trail throughout the film. To make matters worse, Buddy is constantly rescuing the boy from one predicament after another. Though, to be fair, sometimes it’s the boy who is doing the rescuing!

A western / action / comedy / sci-fi / adventure, Six String Samurai is never boring. Not for a minute. It is clever, it is hip, and I really enjoyed it
Rating: 8.5 out of 10

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