Based on true events, this film, made to commemorate the anniversary of Japanese-Thai diplomatic relations, is truly an underrated film involving some brutal action and a great performance from its lead star.
Nagamasa Yamada (Seigi Ozeki) is a Japanese mercenary who has come to the area of Ayothaya to support King Naresuan, who had defeated the Hongsawadee Army in the Elephant War. The Hongsawadee, swearing revenge on Narusean, has sent assassins to ravage a local village. However, Yamada and his men defeat the assassins, who turn out to be Japanese posing as Hongsa warriors. Yamada soon learns that the army’s subleader has set a plan to betray his own people and when Yamada is nearly killed, he is saved by a band of Thai boxers led by Kham (Thanawut Ketsaro).
Taken to the nearby village of Phitaskuloke Song Khae, Yamada is nursed back to health by Kham’s younger sister Champa (Kanokkorn Jaichuen). It is soon that Yamada finally learns about something he has never experienced in his life: the value of true friendship. When Yamada tests the martial arts skills of Naresuan’s most trusted bodyguard Sua (Buakaw Banchamek), he asks village head Phra Khru (Soraporn Chatree) to train him in Muay Thai, the national martial art. Khru, impressed with the skills Yamada already has, convinces him to combine Muay Thai with his own skills. Khru even announces that Yamada will try out to become one of Naresuan’s bodyguards. Will the Japanese warrior be able to accomplish his task and earn the respect of his newfound friends?
From co-writer and director Nopporn Watin comes this fact-based action-drama focused on the story of Nagamasa Yamada, a Japanese adventurer in 17th century Siam who earned the respect of King Naresuan and stayed as a bodyguard only to become a governor. The film combines historical facts with ideas the producers brought to the table to come up with a very well made story highlighted by the performance of lead actor Seigi Ozeki.
Ozeki, a former model gained notoriety for his stage performance in KHU KHAM, the story of a Japanese soldier in World War II falling in love with a Thai woman. Having done television and some films, this is his biggest role to date and he performs it quite well. As the narrator of the story, Yamada reveals how he never had family or friends and his experiences in Ayothaya changed his life forever. Ozeki adapts well to the fight scenes, training well with the Thai stunt team responsible. The film proves that Ozeki is more than just a prettyboy actor, but one who brings out both action and drama in well made combination.
Thai acting veteran Soraporn Chatree (whose best known for appearing in early Panna Rittikrai films) delivers a great performance as village head Khru, who becomes Yamada’s Muay Thai teacher and spiritual mentor. Thai kickboxing champion Buakaw Banchamek delivers a heck of a performance as Sua, Naresuan’s most trusted bodyguard who earns Yamada’s respect after the samurai warrior learns Muay Thai. Co-fight choreographer Thanawut Ketsaro also delivers a good performance as Kham, Yamada’s savior turned “brother” in the war to protect Ayothaya.
Ketsaro and his team choreograph some brutal fight scenes that showcase Ozeki and cast unleashing some insane Muay Thai moves. The violent content is very good bloody fun. Even the weapons fights, notably a scene where Yamada and his newfound brethren take on a band of Hongsa warriors in a river bank, are quite cringeworthy at times. The climax, featuring Yamada taking on the man who betrayed him, is well done with loads of insane swordwork and Muay Thai action combined.
The film was released in the United States as MUAY THAI WARRIOR. Despite the re-title, YAMADA: THE SAMURAI OF AYOTHAYA is a great film thanks to Seigi Ozeki’s performance and some exhilarating and bloody fight scenes that will make you want more. Definitely worth a rental, possibly a purchase.
history • Muay Thai • Nagamasa Yamada • samurai • Seigi Ozeki • Siam • Yamada: The Samurai of Ayothaya (2010)