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 on some wanted men, substantial enough to secure his children’s future. Somewhat reluctantly shaking off the rust, Jubei joins Kingo in the saddle, along with a brash young braggart named Goro (Yûya Yagira). Together, they fancy themselves more than a match for the wanted men. But they cross paths with a sadistic lawman (Koichi Sato) whose distaste for soldiers of fortune is more than they were ready for.
Keeping the meat of the original script from Clint Eastwood’s 1992 version, this Unforgiven effectively hits a lot of the necessary points in a story like this but is ultimately a little lack as some elements do get lost in translation. What is truly missing is Eastwood’s indescribable swagger and scowl. While the film looks great, it has moments of real sterility that take it down a notch from being great to just good.
Ken Watanabe is probably the best choice to fill Eastwood’s shoes, but having it translated to more of a Japanese kind of anger has the narrative lose some of its raw emotion that was present in the original.
When all is said and done, this Japanese remake of Unforgiven is a more than respectable copy, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the American made version.
Rating: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Sunday, September 15 at 5 p.m. at the Scotiabank Theatre
TIFF 2013 runs from September 5 – 15. For more information, visit tiff.net.
Top image: A scene from Unforgiven. Courtesy TIFF.