Yojimbo (1961)

It has a formidable cast, an effective storyline and sick action scenes. The 'bodyguard' became a cult hero over time, and the character and associated tale are still relevant today. No wonder it was remade so many times: the movie polishes and elevates the anti-hero formula, made larger than life by Toshiro Mifune. Without Yojimbo, there would be no Clint Eastwood.


Slices through heroic tale conventions.

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[do action=”moment” emo=”Facepalm” title=”Yojimbo is not Yojimbo.”/]

Before we begin, I’d just like to point out that our hero’s name is NOT ‘Yojimbo.’ Yojimbo is the japanese word for ‘bodyguard.’ Our hero never reveals his real name throughout the movie. Calling the man Yojimbo is pretty much like saying Sylvester Stallone’s real name is Rocky.

[do action=”moment” emo=”Funny” title=”Celebrating unibrows!”/]

Okay, Inokichi has a serious case of unibrow. I just had to mention it. I have a deep love for unibrows. I also love the way he has to count on his fingers. In under a minute, you know this guy completely. He’s not one of the good guys, he’s dumb and… He has a unibrow! Daisuke Kato was one of Kurosawa’s favorites. Can you believe this actor was one of the dramatic Seven Samurai? As comical and as grotesque as Inokichi’s character is, you have keep in mind that the man behind the character was pretty versatile.

[do action=”moment” emo=”Quotable” title=”‘In this town, I’ll get paid for killing. And this town is full of men who are better off dead.'”/]

So he’s both in it for the money AND motivated by the idea of slaying bad guys. Just with a few words, we know who our hero is. He’s greedy but only when his morals are appeased. He can afford being arrogant because he’s cunning, courageous, and skilled.

[do action=”moment” emo=”HolyShit” title=”Better than a curriculum vitae.”/]

The hero with no name decides to prove his worth as a warrior to one of the two gangs, so he slays some guys on one side. The film was made in 1961. It was pretty rare to see severed limbs back then. Sure, we couldn’t see red blood since the movie was shot in black and white, but it’s still very violent for its time. We sure know that the hero walks like he talks. What a beast!

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None of those bandits have true combat experience. Looking at both gangs moving forward and pulling back, lacking the courage to fight, is still funny after half a century.

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Our hero discovers a new opponent, a man who has a different, new kind of weapon. Unosuke has a pistol. What will happen when the two men face each other? We’ll see…

[do action=”moment” emo=”Interesting” title=”It’s not about money anymore.”/]

The bodyguard acknowledges the injustice a separated couple has to endure. The bandits are ruining their lives. Even though he appears reluctant at first, deep down our hero knows he’s the only one who can help them escape this hell hole. He chooses to compromise his own safety for them. The film gets more intimate as we dig deeper into the main character’s heart. He’s a tough S.O.B. on the outside, but a softie inside.

[do action=”moment” emo=”Intense” title=”Crawl if you want to live.”/]

Our man gets a beating he’ll never forget but still manages to flee from his captors. Thankfully he has some allies in this town!

[do action=”moment” emo=”Triumphant” title=”Righteous hack and slash session.”/]

Watching the ronin killing his enemies at the climatic battle is ecstatic. Letting him beat the gun-toting coward with noble but soon-to-be obsolete weapons, a knife and a sword, was a great idea. It makes it much more satisfying.

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