Today I watched Kenji Misumi’s Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx (1972)
The second installment in the illustrious Lone Wolf and Cub series picks up where the last film left off and establishes the main structure of these films. Itto Ogami wanders Japan with his son Daigoro as mercenary assassins, constantly pursued by his nemesis, the Yagyu clan and their ninja warriors. In this film, a retainer clan of the Yagyu composed entirely of female ninja takes a stab at him while he goes about completing one of his contracts. The contract then forms the main narrative component while the ever present Yagyu threat is an excuse for even more action.
Itto’s contract this time around is to kill a notable maker of indigo dye. This craftsman has recently defected from his old clan who were profiting significantly off of secret dye formula that are known to him. To keep him quiet they must hire the Lone Wolf and Cub for the target is also protected by three elite killers with unique weapons of mass carnage. Really though, the stories in these films are a little irrelevant, they are excuses to present stunning imagery and sequences.
Much like the first film this one uses a starkly minimalist approach to the audio-visual presentation, while maximizing the bloodshed and action. Since the film is very much so not about the story, it really becomes about the feel of the scenes, their ephemeral impact. Even if the story takes a back seat and action is elevated, this is still first and foremost a strong mood piece that fluctuates between said violence and oddly tender moments between father and son. That strange dichotomy is this series in a nutshell, and this is just another supremely entertaining entry in that canon. 5/5