110 Min. | Action – Drama – Thriller | April 1961
IMDB Rating: 8.3
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Starring: Toshirô Mifune, Eijirô Tôno, Tatsuya Nakadai
Classic samurai action pic,, often imitated but never equalled. Mifune creates a memorable character in the Ronin who decides the course of his life on the toss of a stick, and ends up risking his life to save a village full of peasants he finds revolting. It’s possible to see “Yojimbo’s” actions as either heroic or as the game of a bored warrior in need of amusement – as often in Kurosawa’s films, the fact that the characters’ motives remain open to interpretation adds depth to the film. Wonderful images, and skillful direction that keeps the pace of the storytelling tight and tells most of the story through images – Yojimbo is the kind of film that is so good it can be watched a silent film without losing too much of its impact or meaning.
If Kurosawa had spent more of his time in litigation and less making movies, he might have made a living for the rest of his life off all the movies that have ripped off Yojimbo. Certainly Eastwood’s “Man with No Name” character owes a lot to Mifune’s contribution, not only in Leone’s films (the first of which borrows its entire plot from Kurosawa, a court settlement ensued which made sure Kurosawa made most of the profits from “Fistful of Dollars” in Asia his own) but also in Eastwood’s best film as a director – “High Plains Drifter”, which borrows scenes such as Eastwood’s rebuke of the villagers from “Yojimbo”.
The really funny thing about all this, and what not too many American critics or audiences have noted, is that “Yojimbo” is itself a western. All the ingredients for a western are here, and the film’s plot and style obviously owe a debt to Zinnemann’s “High Noon”. “Yojimbo” even borrows the device of time, setting up a confrontation at 3:00 a.m. as shouted by the town crier. Overall, Yojimbo on its own is a lean, cool Japanese crime/action film, helmed by a master, and featuring a number of highlights to look forward to on multiple viewings.
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