Ken Watanabe stars in the leading role as Jubei a relic of the Tokugawa Shogunate and an infamous and feared samurai. After the fall of the Shogunate regime, Jubei fought in a series of vicious battles slaying all men in his path and then vanished without a trace. More than 10 quiet years pass but the return of an old friend and poverty leads Jubei to abandon his peaceful life with his family, as he finds himself ensnared in the life of violence he thought he left behind. With his former comrade-in-arms, he confronts the hypocrites who profess to represent justice. Again in this new era, a vicious circle of violence begins.
Clint’s western was such a good film that this almost scene-for-scene Japanese samurai remake rarely rises above curiosity value. It’s not a bad film but you’ll spend more time comparing it with the superior original than enjoying it for its own sake. Perhaps this explains why critics liked it better than audiences. Ken Watanabe (the Clint Eastwood character) plays it po-faced moody all the way through and this is not helped by a mournful strings-heavy score. The other characters are varyingly convincing and so are the confrontations. Only Charles Bronson lookalike Koichi Sato brings excitement and fun to the piece with his swaggering ‘sheriff’ (the Gene Hackman character). As with multiple American remakes of Kurasawa films, this is a missed opportunity to match or improve on the original. Payback time.