Directed by: Akira Kurosawa
Starring: Toshirô Mifune, Eijirô Tôno, Tatsuya Nakadai
One thing I’ve always liked about Kurosawa is that he’s this brilliant, artistic director, sure, but he also just makes movies that are entertaining and well-told. It’s rare to get someone who does both of those things, you usually either get an Ingmar Bergman or a Michael Bay, and it’s that middle ground where the best movies come from.
A ronin samurai comes into a small town that’s being fought over by two rival gangs. He decides to try and play one side against the other, destroying all of them and giving the place a “fresh start.” He tries several schemes, some which work, some which don’t, until he eventually drags both sides down.
It’s a pretty classic Western sort of plot (A Fistful of Dollars is almost the exact same thing), but the really cool thing about this movie is the main character. Sure, he’s a badass fighter, but there are only like three or four actual action scenes which he participates in. The rest of the time he’s laid-back, rough-around-the-edges, and just trying to come up with a plan to help these people out before he moves on to whatever else he’s doing. Also, he gets beat up! He has the exact same human weaknesses as everyone else in the film, and that doesn’t take anything away from his badassedness. This is something you don’t get in modern movies, the action hero always has to be a superman who is always awesome. It’s WAY more interesting in a case like this where you are actually worried about the hero being beaten or driven away. Whouda thunk it?