I was expecting more from the Lone Wolf and Cub franchise. It was the IMDb ratings of the individual films (that never go below 7 and occasionally go over 8) and the fact that the Criterion Collection released it. All of that led me to believe that these movies were more than trash cinema that only intermittently worked. Considering their brief production schedule (all being made in about a two year period and based on an existing manga), I was expecting a far more cohesive experience across the films with connecting elements beyond just one main antagonist who disappears for entire films.
There are so many cool ideas, but almost every single one of them is handled in the most lax manner possible, existing in a vacuum and often being so poorly thought out in terms of execution that they barely make sense even out of context.
Tomisaburo Wakayama gives a dedicated performance as the cool hero with a code (that he doesn’t always follow), but he’s mostly just a vehicle for violence.
They’re thin adventures, a concept I would have been fine with if they had been well built adventures, but every single one of the six movies has two competing storylines that barely intersect. Considering the fact that they’re all less than 95 minutes, and often hovering around 80 minutes, I find it inexplicable that there isn’t one of them where Ogami is dedicated to a single, insurmountable task that he must overcome with several different smaller things that must be followed through on to get to the final boss. It feels like really basic adventure storytelling that the movies sidestep completely.
Oh well. People do seem to genuinely love these films, but I’m definitely not one of them. The best the series got was pretty good.
Anyway, here they are ranked, definitively that is.
“I have no problem with a story dedicated to delivering little more than genre thrills, but don’t muddle it up with terrible, unfocused storytelling.”
“This is the end, and it’s a disappointing ending.”
“I can appreciate the action elements, but the artistic ones feel shallow and poorly assembled to me. I had expected the narrative construction problems from the first film to get addressed in the second because the second no longer needed to tell Ogami’s origin story, however Baby Cart at the River Styx continued the dual story construction, and, once again, I think the film suffers for it.”
“I mean, it’s thinly entertaining while it’s on, and little else. This franchise felt like it had great potential, but five movies into a six movie franchise and it’s largely just inelegantly fractured storytelling.”
“Overall, the first Lone Wolf and Cub movie is hampered by its need to tell both an origin story and another adventure in the same 87 minutes. The origin story is told well enough, but the adventure gets short-changed. I fully expect these tales to get better with subsequent entries.”
“As it is, Baby Cart to Hades is the first in the series to rise above mediocrity by simply giving one of its two major tales this kind of room along with a bit more than just samurai swordplay to look at.”