Directed by Kenji Misumi
Written by Seiji Hoshikawa
Cast: Raizô Ichikawa,Eiko Taki, Mikiko Tsubouchi,Jun Fujimaki, Kenjirô Ishiyama, Tôru Abe, Sônosuke Sawamura,Kôichi Mizuhara, Keiichi Taki, Yûsaku Terashima and Osamu Abe
Ipponmatsu, an aimless drifter who is apparently a gambler stumbles upon a scheme involving selling peasants into slavery on a deserted island. Ipponmatsu’s personal journey of searching for his father and this smuggling operation fatefully collide.
Being pull towards committing patricide is daunting and a harrowing feat. You don’t need Luke Skywalker to testify to know that. Such is the fate of Ipponmatsu. While revealing this mystery might seem like a detriment at first in this review, this mystery is fairly obvious. The constant badgering of a father-son conflict points at this revelation for a focused viewer quite clearly. If the Homeless Drifter couldn’t more clearly be a story of fathers and sons, Ipponmatsu’s search for his father is mirrored in another samurai as well: Yaichirô Kuroki. The relationship between Kuroki and Ipponmatsu is one of ”frenemies”. Though not on a good footing except until the very end, the relationship provides much needed introspection for Ipponmatsu and Kuroki to delve into. Kuroki’s screentime could have been utilized better but the intent of the story seems to be on solely Ipponmatsu’s personal arc. Kuroki and his father’s fates are pieces to this journey.
Osei’s sudden attraction to Ipponmastsu comes totally out of left field. All of the dramatic weight to this attraction is rather puzzling and feels quite undeserving. Osei, herself mattered little in the long run. Most of the villains don’t extend beyond being a simply crude henchman.
The landscape of the Japanese coastlines and the crashing waves in the background is rather an apt location for the unpleasant events. There is a clear lack of justice in this unlucky town as the authorities themselves indulge in acts of injustice with no remorse. The sea is a source of pain for the locals as it is the place where the ships that carry them off to work to death come from. The omnipresence visuals of the sea really shoulders this threat. And, the beaming sunlight amplifies the presence of any wounds and blood.
The finale confronts Ipponmatsu’s father-son conflict with an uncompromising tenderness and boldness. It’s a gruesome end that still keeps intact a strong moral message about fatherhood without undermining the need for justice that is required.
Homeless Drifter is a well-shot film that falls short in a few places but makes up for it with a solid exploration of a man who must pick between loyalty to his father and the need for justice.