Yojimbo (1961)

DVD Cover (Criterion Collection Reissue)
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Overall Rating 82%
Overall Rating
Ranked #1,176
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Review by Ginose
Added: November 02, 2007
Akira Kurosawa is a name that is almost synonymous with samurai cinema. There is good reason for that: Every one he touches is solid gold. There was very little this man could not direct and, thankfully, he probably trumped samurai films better than anything else he did. Now, some people probably have not heard of "Yojimbo" (hell, most probably haven't), but that just shows you the horrible lack of film appreciation left in this world. This is probably one of the most entertaining action films ever made. I'm going to try and state remotely vague in this review, as there is no doubt in my mind that EVERYONE should see this movie.

This is the tale of a wandering samurai; most tales like this are simple, slow, and violent and have a deep moral meaning. This one ends up being all that and more. The samurai, who will later be referred to by the name Sanjuro (Toshir˘ Mifune), encounters a bit of family turmoil as a son leaves his father and mother to go bet on a fight down in the nearby town, intrigued by this, the ronin heads down there to solicit his services as a bodyguard, as it seems. He is immediately met by the towns acting officer, a corrupt little fellow who suggest that Sanjuro take to a side in the local gang-war. Sanjuro, after sizing up the two rival factions, initially shows his skills by killing the members of one gang and siding with another. After getting an earful of the towns past and present from the local restaurant owner, Sanjuro conducts a plan to liberate the village from its current plight. Wow, what a plan it is...

Now, what I loved most about this movie (as is what I love about almost all Kurosawa films) was the clever use of the characters. Each one had a wonderful personality that was hard to ignore; the samurai, the officer, the gang-members. Each one could easily carry a story entirely on their own. But the way that they are introduced into the story makes for an amusing situation followed by another, and another, and another. In the end you feel like absolutely nothing was wasted on it, each character seemed essential to the plot (though, upon repeated viewings, you see that the bulk of them were not) even the minor ones such as the sons of the gangs. Interesting as they were, they were ultimately pointless, but still hilarious to watch.

There's something I forgot to mention, comedy. This movie was hilarious at numerous moments, right from the opening gruesome slapstick, all the way until the end, there is always a moment or two that that you're going to crack a couple of giggles (especially at the actions of the town officer... I mean, you don't think much of such a minor character, but he was certainly good for what he was there for). Much of the comedy arises from the sheer cleverness of Mifune's character. One can only assume it was his acting that led to the success of the character of Sanjuro, one may be right, one may be wrong, but one can certainly assume.

I, personally, saw all the performances here not only spot-on, but even realistic. I have always thought that Mifune dominated whatever role he performed in. Sanjuro may not be anywhere near the infamous cult-icon he is today if it weren't for Kurosawa's writing and how well his lead pulled it off. Such a magnificent hero is almost never seen in this day and age (possibly for the best).

All in all, although I want to call this a perfect film, I know that'd be dishonest. Since I'm not one for critic dishonesty, I'll go on the base score of 9.5/10 for the amazingly fun and violent samurai film that may forever stand the test of time.
effin #1: effin - added 11/19/2007, 06:34 PM
I am sad to say that I did not witness this film until my adult life, which is really unfortunate. This is probably one of the most perfect films i have ever seen. Ever. Not Perfect. But so damn close. I watched it, then I watched it again. Everything about it is beautiful, i believe even if it were in color it would take away from the eye for detail that Kurosowa had. Its hard to watch anything after you see this so if you haven't be prepared.
The Red Clover #2: The Red Clover - added 03/01/2010, 04:51 PM
All I thought was, "Hey, that's the name of that rabbit Samurai on Ninja Turtles." So I picked it up and to my amazement I was introduced to Kurosowa.

Just... fantastic.
Griffinheart #3: Griffinheart - added 03/01/2010, 08:44 PM
This is a TMNT spin-off? Sweet. I'm on it.
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