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Reviewer: Aaron Murphy 04/15/2007

In 1860, rival factions are vying for control of a small town in the Japanese countryside, making life miserable for the town’s inhabitants.  With no end in sight, they just want one side to win, to stop the fear and terror they have to live with every day.  Help comes in an unlikely form though; a wandering samurai passing by decides to help out this poor unfortunate town by having the rival factions destroy themselves.  With unmatched sword skills, he plays both sides, all the while maneuvering each to their own destruction. 
Having recently watched Seven Samurai and having enjoyed it immensely, I thought it would be a good idea to check out some of Akira Kurosawa’s other works.  Yojimbo, made in 1961, tells the story of Sanjuro, a ronin wandering from town to town with no money or place to go.  He happens upon a small town with a rather interesting problem, two factions are fighting for control of the town and its silk trade.  The constant fights and killings are making problems for ordinary people to live their lives and do business, so Sanjuro decides to lend them a hand in a most interesting way.  He concocts a plan to use his superior skills to play each side, with his ultimate goal of having them kill each other off.
For the most part, Yojimbo is a comedy with some action thrown in for good measure.  Sanjuro is quite funny in his own right, whether he’s making a quip to the guards or just in his facial expressions alone.  This is usually a byproduct of his justifiable belief in his superior ability.  Whenever he goes into action though, he is stunning.  Quick and efficient, he cuts down any opponent that he faces in a few seconds, wasting no time before moving onto the next.  His skills are truly above anyone else’s in the movie, by far.  He is also fascinating to watch as he plays each side against one another.  Since he can best anyone in a sword fight, and kills a number of people just to make that point known, he is a highly sought after commodity.  Whichever side is able to get him will win the battle in the end, and this allows him to continually switch sides without any consequences.  While the action is fast paced and entertaining, sadly, there isn’t much of it.  This is the same problem with the comedy, while it is funny; there just isn’t enough laughs for the length of the movie.
The video quality of the movie is pretty good for its age.  It doesn’t have much static or noise, probably do to the digital restoration.  Again I watched the Criterion Collection version, but I do not know which release I saw, thanks Netflix.  The really odd part about this version is that the movie has a rather large black border around the entire picture, especially on the top and bottom.  Now this wouldn’t be much of a problem, except when I zoom in it cuts off the subtitles and a little of the video on the sides.  I am assuming this is a byproduct of the movies age, but it makes watching the movie on a 32 inch TV like watching it on a 26 inch TV.  See the screens below to see what I am talking about.
The music in Yojimbo has quite an interesting flare to it.  Now while the music may be enjoyable and mesh well with the film, the problem is that it all sounds too similar.  You begin to think you are hearing the same song played over and over again.
Yojimbo is definitely a watch if you are interested, but comes off as a little slow. The plot is fairly straightforward in that it doesn’t really try to throw in any twists or psychological depth.  It’s more about the comedy and action than being thought provoking.  Sadly, it has neither enough comedy nor action to carry it through its entire 1 hour and 50 minute runtime.  It’s close, but not quite enough.
Yojimbo has a distinctly western feel to it.  The town almost seems as though it’s set in a desert with all the wind whipping up dust everywhere.  It made me feel as though I was watching an old Clint Eastwood movie, especially since the movie has a gun toting adversary. 
The Yojimbo live action movie is much better then its anime counterpart, Kaze no Yojimbo. 
Yojimbo has a sequel named Sanjuro, which is supposed to be more focused on comedy, even though it has a higher body count.

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Review Title:
Alternative Titles:
Yojimbo the Bodyguard
Number of Episodes:
207 Minutes
General Rating:
4 out of 5 stars
Suitable For:
Action, Comedy, Samurai
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