"You just try and kill me!"--A street thug to Sanjuro "It'll hurt a little."
Total Film - 01/01/2001
"...Probably the most influential action movie made....[The film] cemented Akira Kurosawa's rep as one of cinema's all-time greats..."
In director Akira Kurosawa's comedic YOJIMBO, a masterless samurai, Sanjuro (Toshir˘ Mifune), wanders into a town divided by two warring clans. After displaying his formidable swordsmanship before both clans in a brawl with street thugs, Sanjuro offers his services to the highest bidder. When one clan conspires against him, the clever warrior switches his allegiance to the other side, with the ultimate goal of tricking the two equally despicable and foolish clans into exterminating each other. Sanjuro's authority is challenged, however, when Unosuke (Tatsuya Nakadai), a brother of one of the leaders, comes to town wielding a modern contraption: a gun. In the classic final showdown, the old world samurai is pitted against new world progress, and must use both his wits and physical prowess to survive.
Perhaps Kurosawa's most overtly comic film, YOJIMBO easily ranks with the director's finest work. In this reconception of the Western, Mifune plays Sanjuro, the tough mercenary of few words, to perfection, often allowing his subtle movements and swift actions speak for him. Throughout the entire film, Sanjuro is vigilant yet stoic, conceding that he finds the scenario entertaining and absurd, and essentially has nothing to lose. Mifune's outstanding performance, combined with Kurosawa's expert direction and Kazuo Miyagawa's beautifully balanced photography, makes for one of the finest, and funniest, films in Japanese cinema.
Director Akira Kurosawa's influential 1961 effort, an action-packed, sometimes humorous reconception of the individualistic loner from the American Western, stars Mifune, the director's leading man of choice, as a samurai-for-hire who becomes involved in a dispute between two warring factions in a small village.
In discussing YOJIMBO, director Akira Kurosawa was once quoted by film scholar Donald Richie as stating, "For a long time, I'd wanted to make a really interesting film. It finally turned into this picture. The story is so ideally interesting that it's surprising no one else ever thought of it."
YOJIMBO was later remade in 1964 as A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (directed by Sergio Leone and starring Clint Eastwood), and again in 1996, as LAST MAN STANDING (directed by Walter Hill and starring Bruce Willis).
Toshir˘ Mifune usually adopted distinct mannerisms for each character he portrayed. As Sanjuro in YOJIMBO, Mifune has a distinct walk, often chews on a toothpick, and repeatedly scratches his unshaven chin. He received the award for Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival for his performance.
Decades after YOJIMBO, Tatsuya Nakadai (who plays the gun-toting Unosuke) went on to portray lead characters in two other acclaimed Kurosawa films, KAGEMUSHA and RAN.
Master cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa also worked on Kurosawa's RASHOMON and KAGEMUSHA, as well as many other classic Japanese films, including Yasujiro Ozu's UKIGUSA and Kenji Mizoguchi's UGETSU.