Movie Reviews - Featured Films » Epic Films - Adventure

Yojimbo Movie Review

sanjuro mifune family kurosawa

1961 – Akira Kurosawa –

When a samurai drifter walks into a nineteenth-century village, he sees a dog trotting down the center of the street with a severed human hand in its mouth. In what is often referred to as the most accessible of Japanese films and the basis for the spaghetti western A Fistful of Dollars, Yojimbo builds on this early image to produce a blackly comic, insightful film. The samurai discovers more about the town when one side of two feuding factions tries to recruit him to orchestrate the defeat of the other. Sanjuro the samurai (Toshiro Mifune) cautiously hears them out, but he and the viewers can soon tell that both sides are equally corrupt. Sanjuro masterfully works both sides against each other and eventually eliminates the two warring factions.

Mifune's star performance provides a focal point for the audience. His skeptical, amused, and cynical looks become the gauge by which the audience measures the corruption of one feuding faction (dealing in gambling) and the other (dealing in prostitution). His amusement at the venality of the townspeople increases identification with him. After hearing the sum offered up front by one side, he eavesdrops on a family meeting in which the mother tells her reluctant son that he will save the family the other half of the promised money if he kills Sanjuro as soon as the samurai dispatches their rivals. Sanjuro initially quits at the moment the two gangs confront each other and watches in amusement from a tower as the cowards from both sides alternately approach and retreat in their mock battle. The later scene in which Sanjuro gulls the opposite faction is also impressive: he first reports that all six men guarding a woman they have kidnapped are dead so that the watchman will run off to find the boss; then, he masterfully kills these six guards and directs the woman home to her family. Mifune has all the details right to suggest a man totally confident of his skills: the assured sweep of his arm in sheathing his sword, his ever-present toothpick, and the fury and precision of his sword fighting.

When a note of thanks from the woman's family falls into the hands of the gang who kidnapped her, they severely beat Sanjuro. Kurosawa finds the right time to darken the tone of the film from the bemused observations about the costs of social corruption to a story of recovery and a genuine battle for survival between Sanjuro and both factions. Yojimbo remains one of Akira Kurosawa's most entertaining, intriguing works.

Cast: Toshiro Mifune (Sanjuro Kuwabatake), Eijiro Tono (Gonji the Sake Seller), Kamatari Fujiwara (Tazaemon), Takasji Shimura (Tokuemon), Seizaburo Kawazu (Seibei), Isuzu Yamada (Orin), Hiroshi Tachikawa (Yoichiro), Kyu Sazanka (Ushitora), Tatsuya Nakadai (Unosuke), Daisuke Kato (Inokichi), Ikio Sawamura (Hansuke), Ko Nishimura (Kuma), Yoshio Tsuchiya (Kohei), Yoko Tsukasa (Nui), Susumu Fujita (Homma) Screenwriter: Ryuzo Kikushima, Akira Kurosawa Cinematographer: Kazuo Miyagawa Composer: Masaru Sato Producer: Ryuzo Kikushima, Tomoyuki Tanaka Running Time: 110 minutes Format: VHS, LV Awards: Academy Awards, 1961: Nomination: Costume Design.

They Might Be Giants … Movie Review [next] [back] The Three Musketeers Movie Review

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or