Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank (2022)

Posted in Reviews by - December 31, 2022
Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank (2022)

Set in an anthropomorphic version of feudal Japan in which all its inhabitants are cats, an unscrupulous official for the Shogun vows to destroy the small village of ‘Kakamucho’ in order to extend his palace. Without a samurai to protect them, the poor feline folk are doomed. Enter Hank – a dog in a cat’s world, wearing a Game of Death dressing gown with a longing to be a warrior despite any obvious sword skills. He is hired by the official to protect the village, assuming that Hank will fail and the town will be his for the taking. Hank’s fortunes change when he meets Jimbo, an overweight, washed-out, alcoholic samurai cat with his own redemption story, who trains Hank to be the best damn samurai dog in town. This film was besieged by production issues which may explain the extraordinarily long list of executive producers and writers, and why it took so long to be released (originally intended for 2017). It started life as an animated remake of Mel Brooks’ 1974 comedy, Blazing Saddles, called Blazing Samurai (Brooks remains onboard as a producer, co-writer, and the voice of the Shogun), with the racial storyline switched to a cats and dogs premise in a bid to make the film more accessible, even if it now resembles a Kung Fu Panda knock-off. Much of Brooks’ spoof elements and knowing tone are still rooted in its DNA, with the film constantly breaking the fourth wall and Hank asking questions like, “is this the training montage?”, and, “life is short, and this movie is only 85 minutes long”. During a chase sequence, the characters literally break through the screen and into the theatre. It is also full of cinematic references which will be completely lost on its younger audience, if that is indeed who this film is made for; there’s a flashback to West Side Story, and the farting scene from Blazing Saddles. There are also nods to Japanese art and culture, something else the parents might pick up: the artist Hokusai, Godzilla, and Kurosawa. The film is almost too self-consciously cine-literate and pleased with itself to actually bother with any laugh-out-loud moments, and when some of the jokes actually land, its mostly down to the superb voice cast – surprisingly A-list for such a mediocre film, including the likes of Samuel L. Jackson, Michelle Yeoh, Michael Cera and Ricky Gervais. The film is considered to be a box office bomb, with a budget of $45m and sales of $37.6m so far. Maybe if it had been released when it was meant to be, instead of sheepishly being dropped onto streaming platforms, its fortunes may have changed.

AKA: Blazing Samurai.

This post was written by
Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a laptop in London, UK.

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