With his Japanese remake of Clint Eastwood's UNFORGIVEN, director Lee Sang-il becomes the latest in a line of illustrious filmmakers to cross-pollinate the western and chambara genres.
Jubei Kamata (Ken Watanabe) is a widowed father and infamous former swordsman who spends his days tending a struggling farm. His commitment to pastoral tranquility is tested when Kingo Baba (Akira Emoto), an old comrade in arms, brings news of a bounty substantial enough to secure his children's future: the prostitutes of a neighbouring village have pledged 1,000 yen for the lives of the bandits who mutilated one of their own. Rustily and somewhat reluctantly, Jubei joins Kingo in the saddle, along with a brash young braggart named Goro (Yuya Yagira). Together, they fancy themselves more than a match for the wanted men. But they are also destined to encounter a far more formidable faction, led by a sadistic lawman (Koichi Sato) with a distaste for soldiers of fortune.
Lee wisely retains the spine of David Webb Peoples's acclaimed screenplay, but adds several notable flourishes of his own. A subplot concerning Japan's indigenous Ainu squares his update with the broader western tradition of depicting the plight of aboriginal peoples at the hands of so-called civilizing forces. Lee also refashions the film's climactic standoff to stunning effect, conceiving a fiery new finale that is certain to see his UNFORGIVEN become iconic in its own right.
Synopsis written by: TIFF