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Just as Clint Eastwood's star-making spaghetti Western A Fistful of Dollars was inspired by Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo, Japanese-Korean filmmaker Sang-il Lee (Villain) has decided to reinterpret Eastwood's Oscar®-winning Unforgiven as a Japanese period film. Set in the late 1800s, after the fall of Shogunate Japan, onetime assassin Jubee Kamata (Oscar® nominee Ken Watanabe -- Inception, The Last Samurai) lives in seclusion on a small farm. But when the new government begins harassing the local populace, Jubee is forced to break the promise he made to his dead wife and take up the sword once more. Written by
When a movie is as brilliant as Eastwood's Unforgiven, it's very hard if not impossible to watch its remake with a fresh eye. I tried, but could not succeed. I kept wishing I was watching the original. Not to say it was a bad film, not at all, but there are some major flaws in this movie. First of all, the characters and actors were nowhere as charismatic as in the original. Not that they were bad, but imho they lack the emotional depth and nuance that their predecessors had. While Gene Hackman's role seemed beautifully fleshed out, his Japanese counterpart is merely a psychopath.
The film imitates parts from the original at places were they could have strayed off a bit, and vice versa. Sometimes it felt I was watching a western, just with Japanese actors, while I expected it to be a samourai movie. There are scenes from Unforgiven 1 and 2 with matching color palettes, which I think is a shame. Why not go for a totally different approach? Accentuate the differences, not the similarities. But there are scenes in the original that had a lot of punch (eg the final shootout scene), which have been given a different approach and therefore fail.
Where it succeeds is the beautiful cinematography, and the conclusion of Japanese Will Munny's character. I also like the symbolic use of the elements like rain and snow.
But as said, I'm extremely prejudiced (Eastwood's Unforgiven is one of my favourite movies) and perhaps the viewer who is not familiar with the original will love this one just as well.
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