For years, Hollywood Westerns took inspiration from Japanese samurai films. Now one movie is taking the inspiration in the other direction: Japanese director Lee Sang-il has adapted Clint Eastwood’s 1992 Western masterpiece—and classic “guilty pulp” flick—Unforgiven into a Japanese-language samurai tale titled Yurusarezaru mono.
It seems fitting given that Eastwood got his big break in Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars, which transformed him into a full-fledged movie star and was adapted from Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo. While samurai films provided storylines for some of Hollywood’s greatest Westerns—including, perhaps most famously, the John Sturges classic The Magnificent Seven, modeled after Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai—the Lee Sang-il film reportedly represents the first major Japanese adaptation of an American film.
In the movie, the great Ken Watanabe plays a version of Eastwood’s character from Unforgiven—a former samurai of the shogunate who undertakes one last assassination in order to feed his children. Alongside Watanabe, Koichi Saito (The Magic Hour) assumes Gene Hackman’s role and Akira Emoto (Villain) plays Morgan Freeman’s part.
Scored to thundering brass and strings and replete with wide vistas, the teaser shows that the film’s Hokkaido island setting offers sunsets just as stunning as those on the stark plains of Wyoming and Kansas. A brief shot of a samurai sword hilt teases the tantalizing prospect of translating Unforgiven’s deglamorized depictions of violence to the sword-fighting set. We can only imagine how they’ll do the famous “helluva thing” discussion.
But the film’s most exciting feature may be Watanabe’s grizzled visage. The many close-ups here suggest that the actor picked up a few of the Eastwood’s trademark expressions on the set of their 2006 collaboration Letters from Iwo Jima. Yurusarezaru mono will hit Japanese theaters next year.
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