Six-String Samurai

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It’s a bad sign when you start admiring the vistas to the point of losing track of the story, but Six-String Samurai is that kind of movie. It may be pointless, paceless and too self-consciously hip for its own good, but it sure looks nice.

The premise is this: Russia has kicked America’s sorry ass in a nuclear exchange in 1957 — it’s one of those parallel universe things — and the landscape is all picturesque desert inhabited by scruffy medieval types à la Mad Max. It’s 40 years after the war as the movie opens. Elvis, the king of Lost Vegas, has died and roaming-samurai, guitar-playing, martial arts experts are heading to the city to claim his title.

The film follows the exploits of the taciturn Buddy, as in Holly (Jeffrey Falcon), one of the six-stringed samurai determined to replace the king — though if Russia won the war, wouldn’t King Elvis just be a puppethead for the dastardly commies? Hmmmm ... ? Things take a turn for the worse pretty early in the proceedings, when an excruciatingly annoying little desert rat known — in the credits — as The Kid attaches himself to our hero. Since Buddy exudes a lot of spaghetti-western macho, one waits hopefully for him to drop-kick the little bastard over the nearest sand dune, but it never happens.

Not much else does either, just a few fights and much wandering around. The movie is crammed with a lot of flat-footed jokes that you’d have to be 12 years old or very stoned — or both — to enjoy, borrowings from Sergio Leone and Kaurismaki’s Leningrad Cowboys Go America, and a tedious non-performance by Falcon.

But the cinematography by Kristian Bernier is impressive, especially considering that this is an ultra-low-budget student film that got mutated into a feature. All that sand and sun. Very nice.

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