Yu Aoi, Takeru Sato, Teruyuki Kagawa
Colour 134 mins
A Japanese film in a well-established vein. A wandering hero with a mysterious past goes around helping the down-trodden people who are unprotected by the police and authorities from nasty criminals. For example the Zatoichi films. Rurouni Kenshin does not have the artiness of Kitano Takeshi in his 2003 "Zatoichi", and it could be said to be film-making by numbers. But it is an exceedingly good example of the genre, and fun to watch.
The events of Rurouni Kenshin are set a decade after the battles which saw the era of the Shoguns end, and the Meiji Restoration begin which led to Japan's modernisation. This is a key landmark in Japanese history, with mythic resonance. A decade on the Samurai class have fallen on hard times, some have adapted but many haven't. Japan now sees the rise of the merchant class, and our chief villain is an unscrupulous drug-dealing capitalist. You could see some social comment here, perhaps the original source manga had a political sub-text to it.
Our hero Kenshin wanders into a situation where the villain is trying to take over the Kamiya dojo run by Kamiya's daughter. He is handicapped by having sworn not to kill (his sword has the cutting edge on the wrong side.) Will he yet win through?
A lot of varied fights, good set-pieces. Lone swordsmen chopping their way through tens of opponents. Villains who know how to dress. A certain amount of mysticism around "sword-spirit". Great.