Akira Kurosawa's masterly black comedy/samurai film YOJIMBO stars Toshiro Mifune in a career-defining role (which he would reprise in Kurosawa's SANJURO) as a mercenary ronin (a masterless samurai) caught between two rival gangs vying for control of a small town in 1860 Japan. With
Mifune's tongue-in-cheek performance and the wildly stylized battle scenes featuring mallet and pistol-wielding samurai, YOJIMBO may just be the first post-modern samurai film. Kurosawa draws on the traditions of American Westerns (such as SHANE and HIGH NOON), showing a lone stranger coming to
the rescue as dust blows across the village's empty main street and the frightened citizens peer out from behind shutters; only in this town, a dog calmly trots through the street carrying a severed hand in its mouth, and the stranger is a cynical killer. This mocking attitude and subversive style
would, in turn, beget the Spaghetti Western, with its indestructible anti-heroes and outrageous violence, when Sergio Leone remade YOJIMBO as A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964) (it was also remade-uncredited-by Walter Hill as LAST MAN STANDING in 1996).
The explosive outbursts of violence in YOJIMBO are superbly choreographed, with Kurosawa's customary use of a telephoto lens creating a hallucinatory feeling as an unending stream of swordsmen come pouring out of every corner of the widescreen frame and the tiny solitary figure of Sanjuro is
invariably trapped between them. Hitching his shoulders, fingering his beard stubble, chewing on a toothpick, and scratching his head, Mifune brilliantly communicates his character's personality through purely physical means. The few times he does speak, he delivers lines such as "Get two
coffins...no, maybe three" with consummate cool, culminating with the final scene when he calmly surveys the carnage, puts his sword back in his belt, and blithely remarks "Now it will be quiet in this town," then struts out of the village.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Akira Kurosawa's masterly black comedy/samurai film YOJIMBO stars Toshiro Mifune in a career-defining role (which he would reprise in Kurosawa's SANJURO) as a mercenary ronin (a masterless samurai) caught between two rival gangs vying for control of a smal… (more)