“Six-String Samurai”: Movie will just `String’ you along

Six String Samurai

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
September 18, 1998

2 stars

Buddy (Jeffrey Falcon)
The Kid (Justin McGuire)
Death (Stephane Gauger)
Directed by Lance Mungia. Written by Mungia and Jeffrey Falcon.
Running time: 91 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for violence). Opening today at local theaters.

Imagine that the Russians took over America in 1957, nirvana is a place called Lost Vegas and the leader of the Western world is Elvis Presley. When he dies in 1997, every guitar-playing, sword-swinging maverick worth his weight in blue suede shoes heads to Vegas to become the next King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

That’s the premise of the indie flick “Six-String Samurai,” which is equal parts “Mad Max,” “Enter the Dragon” and “Welcome to Woop Woop.”

While it’s beautifully shot, artfully edited and generally well-acted, the film doesn’t achieve the spectacular heights of any of those pictures because its sparse plot is better suited for a short than a 91-minute film.

But what it lacks in plot development, “Six-String Samurai” makes up with Kristian Bernier’s stylish cinematography and Jeffrey Falcon’s spectacular martial-arts sequences, which are set to the rockabilly music of the Russian-born Red Elvises of Santa Monica, Calif.

As the likely contender to become the next king, Buddy (Falcon) is a stoic hero, saddled with an orphan (Justin McGuire) who inexplicably wails. It’s no wonder that Buddy threatens to slice the child’s teddy bear in half.

“Flutter away, little butterfly,” Buddy tells him in the hushed tones of Clint Eastwood (or any of the male characters on the “Speed Racer” cartoon series). “I’ve got a gig in Vegas. And the wasteland ain’t no place for kids.”

Buddy’s fights are many, including a David and Goliath battle against a couple of hundred Russian soldiers. But his most tenacious nemesis is Death himself, who appears in the guise of a heavy-metal-playing guitar slinger who looks like Slash of Guns N’ Roses.

There is more action than dialogue in this film, but the audience is under the illusion that we’re seeing more slicing and dicing than director Lance Mungia actually shows on camera.

That in itself is an effective and appealing art form that other filmmakers would be wise to emulate.

Jae-Ha Kim can be seen reviewing films for Fox News Chicago at 5 p.m. every Saturday.

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