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Besides calling this movie an action adventure, you could, above all things, call it entertainment. Everything about this movie is aimed toward entertaining its viewer, with plenty of splendid developments, fun characters and some nice action to enjoy.

It's amazing how simple this movie is with its main story and with its setup. It's all about a samurai that comes to a small town and sets two gangs up against each other. And really, that's it basically. Of course there are still plenty of other developments but the movie never becomes an overly complicated or one that's hard to follow, even though you probably still have some difficulties with it if you aren't very familiar yet with early Japanse cinema and Akira Kurosawa movies in particular.

You have to realize, that even though the movie is filled with all kinds of western cinematic influences, it's a movie set in a country with a very rich culture of its own, with also a rich history of film-making and a long history of storytelling in general. This means it's quite different from anything you are most likely normally accustomed to seeing. The movie might work out slow and confusing for some but luckily the vast majority of people won't have any difficulties getting grabbed by this movie and its way of storytelling, so don't feel too reluctant to try it!

The whole way the movie plays out is pretty neat and besides interesting. Even though it has a simple main premise, the movie in no way ever becomes a predictable one. It's mostly fun to see how the samurai sets two rivaling gangs up against each other, to make his job easy and you basically never know what is going to happen next or how the movie is going to end. And let me tell you, the end doesn't disappoint at all!

It's a well known fact Akira Kurosawa got influenced by early Hollywood westerns, which most definitely shows in this movie as well, perhaps more so than in any of his other movies. There is even a gunslinger in this and some of the shots, the townspeople and the way the town looks, with constant dust blowing through its streets, should all remind you of a good old fashioned western. It's therefore also kind of ironic how some of Kurosawa's later got remade as westerns in Hollywood, or in this particular case by Sergio Leone. Really, "Per un pugno di dollari" is absolutely and very obviously a remake of this movie, with its shots, characters, story and whatever more, though Leone had to deny it for the obvious legal reasons. But to be fair, this movie is also not entirely original of its own, since it was mostly based on a novel, that was never given any credit in this movie.

Once again, Toshirô Mifune plays the strong and charismatic lead and he is flawless! But it's also a movie in which its supporting cast is given a lot to do and at times they have to even carry the movie. This actually also adds to the Mifune character. Yes, he's smart and powerful but he's not a superhuman, or one that couldn't be harmed. The fact that the movie doesn't treat him like an action hero that does everything by himself, without any help from outsiders but keeps him more sort of restrained and more instead, which in return also adds to his mystique and the likability of his character, since he feels actually real human like.

Entertaining and wonderful in all of its glorious simplicity!

9/10

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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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