directed by Akira Kurosawa (1961)
Yojimbo opens on a lone, unnamed Samurai, so drifting in life that he allows the toss of a branch decide the direction he wanders. It ends up leading him to a dusty town where only the coffin maker can earn a living. Two houses of criminal gamblers are at war, fighting over territory and the entire town is hostage to the violence.
Seeing an opportunity to make some money and mess with some bad guys, he offers his incredible skills with a sword as a bodyguard – pitting the two bosses against each other for his favor.
Seemingly rough and impenetrably tough, it’s only when he gives into and reveals a kind heart that our Samurai falls prey to the bad guys and we can cheer for not just a clever man but a true hero.
Yojimbo is probably one of Kurosawa’s most comical movies and also one of the straight up coolest. Thanks in no small part to the handsome dynamic duo of Toshiro Mifune and Tatsuya Nakadai but you could also site all the Dashiell Hammett Kurosawa was reading at the time and the films of John Ford he found so inspiring.
No wonder it made such an easy transition to the Spaghetti Western as the Clint Eastwood classic A Fistful of Dollars. West inspires East inspires West.. though I will have to rent the Leone version to see how he interprets the awesome Samurai sword versus pistol fight.