In Medieval Japan, an elderly warlord retires, handing over his empire to his three sons. However, he vastly underestimates how the new-found power will corrupt them and cause them to turn on each other...and him.
A wandering samurai, Sanjuro, is drawn into local politics. The Superintendent of a clan is plotting to take over the clan by implicating the Chamberlain in corrupt activities (activities the Superintendent is actually responsible for). Part of the plan involves killing off the Chamberlain's staff and, in protecting them, Sanjuro sides with them. The supporters are massively outnumbered so it will require all of Sanjuro's cunning and swordcraft to ensure the Superintendent does not succeed in his evil plan.Written by
Better than most in the genre, even if not a 'masterpiece' for Kurosawa
Sanuro, the sequel (or prequel, more likely a sequel though) to Akira Kurosawa's 1961 classic Yojimbo, brings us Toshiro Mifune to one of his most memorable characters, as he helps out (begrudgingly but, for the audience, funny way of help) with a group of would-be samurai trying to fight a corrupt man trying to gain power. With this film, Kurosawa delivers if not more than the same amount of violence (with one of his finest scenes of which towards the very end), and Mifune along with co-stars are believable and make for an entertaining ride. For those who are not familiar with Kurosawa and look to start, this and Yojimbo are the best starting points.
But to say that it is not one of Kurosawa's very best is not entirely a dis-service to him. One flaw for me was that the story was not very clear on the first viewing, or at least as clear as what I'm used to from him (then again, the samurai genre is one I've only started to dig into). But a second viewing brought it clearer, and was even more suspenseful and amusing. That it is not as satirical (or perhaps it is) than what I had heard is not a minus however. The best that can be said that it is highly watchable, and could grow on those looking for a samurai film with more based on character than on immediate, flowing blood-shed and carnage. The least that can be said is that it does not compromise artistry and thoughtfulness for mediocrity. Grade: A
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