Sunday, September 15, 2013

TIFF Day 9

A remake of the Clint Eastwood classic. With Samurai. I suppose that could be the review right there, except I haven't seen the original, so I can't compare.

The Meiji era in Japan brought the end of the Samurai. These elite soldiers were hunted down relentlessly, fleeing to northern Hokkaido. Jubei (Ken Watanabe) survives this cull, finding an Ainu wife and fathering two children on a modest farm. Known as "Jubei The Killer", with a tale of his slaughter of a Christian village and a troop of persuing soldiers making him legend. His wife has died, and all he wants is to be a father and live in peace.

Then an old friends shows up with news of a bounty on two settlers who assaulted a prostitute in a frontier town. Jubei turns down the offer, but realizes he needs the money for his family to survive the coming winter after a fruitless crop. So he unearths his sword and heads out.

The idea of old kick-ass Samurai going after bad dudes sounds awesome. Sadly, there was not so much swording as there was talking and riding horses. There was even a fair bit of gunplay, which while perhaps appropriate for the era portrayed, makes for some disappointment and redundancy in the remake.

No, this was very much a remake, so Japanese audiences don't need to see the original. Watanabe is very good, as are most of the performances. However, his two sidekicks suffer from more classic Japanese acting - overplayed, over emoting, and generally unsubtle.  The whole thing was a bit overlong, and felt generally unnecessary. Beautifully shot, a worthwhile story with some localized messages (poor treatment of the northern Ainu, the end of Japanese eras, etc.), but overall only good, not great.

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