Yojimbo ★★★★

A blockbuster in spirit, if not in name, Yojimbo is perhaps one of the smartest movies I've seen yet. By blending crisp direction, melding humor, action, and cool-as-ice heroes, fleshing out peripheral characters that could have ended up as flat caricatures, and leaving us wanting so much more, Kurosawa seems to have made a movie for anyone with an ounce of testosterone in them.

On the surface, the tale is about two warring gangs in an all-but-walled-off city. Examining aspects of the gang war, we are witness to the effect on business, warfare, and the feeling of helplessness by the rest of the population. I understand the story was loosely adapted from a 1931 Dashiell Hammett novel, but can not stop thinking about the Cold War parallels. An arms race where one side introduces a deadly new long-range weapon, the virtual disregard for the rest of the populace by the two warring sides, and the use of monetary warfare by controlling business with hints of a sake embargo, all seem like possible allusions to US/USSR tensions prevalent at the time of Yojimbo's production. I'm off to see if other folks share my crack-pot over-analyses!

Superior to a certain unnamed remake in every way, Yojimbo doesn't sacrifice cool for coherency, raises the dramatic stakes with a single gun, and is stunning both to the eyes and ears thanks to Kurosawa's deft direction and efficient script.