Sanjuro, a wandering samurai enters a rural town in nineteenth century Japan. After learning from the innkeeper that the town is divided between two gangsters, he plays one side off against the other. His efforts are complicated by the arrival of the wily Unosuke, the son of one of the gangsters, who owns a revolver. Unosuke has Sanjuro beaten after he reunites an abducted woman with her husband and son, then massacres his father's opponents. During the slaughter, the samurai escapes with the help of the innkeeper; but while recuperating at a nearby temple, he learns of innkeeper's abduction by Unosuke, and returns to the town to confront him. Written by
Bernard Keane <BKeane2@email.dot.gov.au>
Yojimbo, based on noir writer Dashiel Hammett's Red Harvest is a magnificently entertaining film. Toshiro Mifune stars as the nobody who calls himself Sanjuro (thirty but closer to forty). He enters a town destroyed by warring factions and plays a double-game to pit one faction against the other thus destroying the criminal element.
Yojimbo (aka The Bodyguard) is one of the coolest and most stylish films ever made. Starring Toshiro Mifune, Kurosawa's favorite actor, as the scruffy looking Samurai, Yojimbo has all of Kurosawa's qualities and none of the flaws. The music score is an essential element of the plot and strikingly good, but admittedly bettered by the Ennio Morricone version in the Spaghetti Western remake Fistful of Dollars. The visuals are great, from the samurai swordplay, to the desolate streets, the town crier announcing its 3 a.m. to the brutal torture scene.
One of the unique things about Yojimbo is the central character. He is an anti-hero. We see him initially as a killer and a man greedy for money. But then, he saves a family by re-uniting mother and child and giving them all the money he was advanced. Mifune has never been cooler than in this film and Eastwood could only aspire to equal such a performance.
Of the two remakes, I liked Fistful of Dollars for starting the Spaghetti Western genre, although Yojimbo is a far more superior and stylish film. The gangster version, Last Man Standing, was not very good and Bruce Willis made for a poor substitute to Yojimbo. This film looks fresh and undated even today - watch it!
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