Toshiro Mifune plays a wandering samurai who chances upon a small town in which two rival gangs are squabbling for control and decides to manipulate them into killing each other.
Akira Kurosawa is reunited with the cinematographer who worked with him on Rashomon and together they use the widescreen format to glorious effect. He once again tackles his favourite subject and turns the class system on its head, presenting a samurai as not a noble warrior fighting for justice, but a scruffy opportunistic mercenary who happily blackmails and double deals for his own ends. Toshiro Mifune’s performance is filled with subtlety and charisma as his initial disdain of these big fish in a small pond turns to brutal retribution after his suffering a vicious beating at their hands when he makes the mistake of becoming personally involved. Yojimbo is easily Kurosawa’s most comic piece but the humour is black as night. It has a sense of period and atmosphere that is second to none and his trademark use of composition is – as ever – breathtaking.
Often copied, never bettered.