27 February 2014

Unforgiven (許されざる者)

Yurusarezaru mono is a Japanese remake of the Clint Eastwood's Oscar-winning film Unforgiven. Whilst the western world have been known to adapt Eastern tales, it has never really become common place for an American film to be retold through a different culture – until now.
This is a film that stays completely true to the original. The general characters and plot stay the same but instead we are given a Japanese setting of Hakkaido in the 1880’s. Due to this shift, there are evidently more cultural differences. Especially when it comes to the harsh tension between two rival tribes, the Wa and the Ainu. With this in mind, even though the original was pretty heavy, the violence seems even more noticeable considering the sheer amount of gore that comes with Samurai’s using their swords. We are introduced to a retired Samuari, Jubei Kamata (Ken Watanabe: Inception, The Last Samuari) who seems to have a pretty tiresome life living off the land with his two motherless young children. An old friend from the war Kingo Baba (Akira Emoto: The Eel, Dr. Akagi) travels to ask him if he would help him kill some men who repeatedly sliced the face of a prostitute, Natsume (Shirio Kutsuna) – of course a reward is involved.  
Just as they two did in the original, they travel to the small town unfortunately run by a ruthless Sheriff Ichizo Oishi (Koichi Sato) to track down the culprits. Vowing to never kill again, this becomes a race between hunting down the guilty men and Jubei nicknamed ‘The Killer’ during the war, battling internally with haunting memories of the past. This becomes quite an intense battle between anti-violent laws and a man who sees the people who need to be eliminated and follows through. Even though Unforgiven contains brutal imagery, the film enforces the Eastern codes of honour and tradition, making this fight much more than just gaining some Yen.  Watanabe is an excellent substitute for Eastwood, bringing a humble yet crazed performance to his Jubei, ‘The Killer’. Emoto also gives a fine performance as Morgan Freeman's stand in. The films comedic moments (which are certainly needed) are all down to the drunken and impulsive acts of youngster Goro Sawada played by Yuya Yagira.
Despite the films rather downbeat subject matter, Unforgiven is beautifully shot. The snow covered mountains make a great substitute for the bare west and Sang-il Lee’s direction does a tremendous job with this bold change. Unforgiven is just as concerned with acts of aggression as it is forgiveness. Although a lengthy running time if you can get lost in the story it is well worth sitting through this Japanese retelling of the Oscar-winning original.

Directed by Sang-il Lee
135 mins, 15 (2013)

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