This is the first film directed by Akira Kurosawa that I have seen in its entirety. Yojimbo is often cited as inspiration for countless films. Yet, while it was a decent film overall, it did not impact me the way that it seems to have impacted others.

Pros:

The main character. During the first half of the movie, I thought that the director, Akira Kurosawa, would be going for a more “anti-samurai samurai” feeling. The warrior hero, Sanjuro, did not seem be to very heroic with the actions he was taking. It was atypical for the idealized samurai seen in many Japanese films of the time. I would imagine that the idealized samurai does not blackmail, betray, and just swindle other people in general. However, even though Sanjuro’s methods may seem “unheroic”, his overall intentions were good. He is a good guy that just wants to free a town from two opposing gangs. So while Sanjuro may not be an idealized samurai, he definitely felt like a more real character.

The humor. Although Yojimbo may be tagged as a drama thriller, I felt that the comedy tag would also apply here. The comedy was expertly woven into the main story, with even some scenes dedicated entirely to it, while still progressing the story. A couple of the characters (like Inokichi) felt like they were taken right of a slapstick manga. The comedy really just made the film seem lighter overall, even with the violent story.

Cons:

A lull in the middle. It felt like the middle of the film hit a snag. It just was not as interesting as the first and last third of the movie. It was even hard to follow at times and I ended up rewatching about ten minutes of it just to get a clear understanding of what was going on.

Motivations. I was a bit disappointed that the movie did not spend any time exploring the motivations of each character. It never got past “because I find it interesting” and “because I want to rule the town”. These motivations just stuck throughout the movie, never really being explained. It made the story a whole lot easier to tell, but I never really got why certain characters acted the way they did.

Not the greatest first impression of Kurosawa that I could have, but enough for me to remain interested in his other works. I will definitely try watching the sequel, simply titled Sanjuro, to see if it is any better. Overall though, Yojimbo is an easy recommendation to those that are into classic samurai films.

Score: 6.5/10

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