A ronin, a samurai without a master, enters a town where two warring warlords have destroyed all sense of stability. The samurai asks for a drink of water at a well and hears a man fighting with his son. The son runs away to join a band of hooligan gamblers, telling his father he'd rather live a short life with adventure than eat mush and live a long life. The man looks askance at the samurai, and curses him for bringing blood and mayhem to the region. The samurai goes to the town. It is controlled by two warring factions. The samurai chooses not to take sides and plays both factions in a game of one-upmanship that ultimately leads to the samurai's victory. The samurai takes refuge in the inn of an old man (named Gonji) who feeds him cold rice. Despite the old man's warning that the town is damned, the samurai decides to stay. First, he convinces the younger Seibei to be his bodyguard when he kills three of Ushitora's men. Orin, the scheming wife, tells her husband and son, to pay the samurai, who calls himself Kuwabatake Sanjuro, but kill him after he has defeated Ushitora. Once the two factions line up in the street to do battle, the samurai throws the money Seibei paid him on the ground, and says he knows that Seibei plans to kill him. The samurai climbs the bell tower and watches the fight that ensues without him. A government official arrives and stops the fight. The two sides agree to a truce, but the samurai has plans to incense the two groups against each other. Ushitora had hired two men to kill a man in a neighboring town, which had caused the official to leave. The samurai captures the two assassins and brings them to Seibei, but he tells Ushitora that it was Seibei's men who had done the deed. Ushitora pays the samurai for his work and kidnaps Yoichiro, one of Seibei's women. At three o'clock in the morning the two sides agree to make an exchange, Ushitora will get back his assassins, and Seibei his woman. But Unosuke, a deranged man with the only gun in town, shoots the assassins dead. Seibei reveals that he has in his possession a woman who is favored by Tokuemon, the sake brewer. Tokuemon is in cahoots with Ushitora (he had given him the woman in the first place). The old man tells the samurai that the woman is the wife of a farmer and the samurai rescues the woman from a tent guarded by six of Seibei's men. He kills the men and destroys the tent. He reunites the woman with her son and husband and gives them the money that Ushitora had given him for payment. He tells the pair to run away and never come back. When Seibei's men find the hut destroyed, and the woman gone, the samurai deceptively tells them that it was Ushitora's men that had done the deed (how can one man do such a deed, he says). An all out war breaks out in the town. The sake brewery is destroyed; the silk house is burned down, and all hell breaks lose. But the ruse is short-lived, and the two factions discover that the samurai has duped them. The samurai is beaten to a bloody pulp, and when he wakes up he finds out that he has been made prisoner. He escapes by hiding in a trunk that he discovers has been unintentionally left unlocked. When he is discovered missing, he climbs out of the trunk and crawls to his freedom and seeks refuge again with the old man at the inn. The old man schemes to hide him inside of a coffin barrel. The samurai, though, insists that he wants to watch the two warlords duke it out, so he watches through a slit in the barrel's opening. Seibei's gang has been destroyed (as well as the harem). All that is left is Ushitora's henchmen, and Unosuke, the fiend with the handgun. The old man is able to carry the samurai out of the town with the help of Ushitora's henchman Inokichi. It's a funny scene because the henchman is duped into thinking he is carrying a corpse to the cemetery, and doesn't know that he is inadvertently helping the samurai to escape. The old man takes the samurai to a nearby temple where after an unspecified time he is healed of his wounds by the help of the old man's medicine and provisions. When the old man, however, is kidnapped by Ushitora's men, the samurai returns to the town to rescue him. Unosuke tries to shoot the samurai. The samurai impairs with the throw of a knife and then he kills the rest of the men. Unosuke, knowing that he will die, asks the samurai for one last request. He wants to die with his handgun in hand. He tells the samurai "If I don't have my pistol, I feel sort of naked." The samurai lets him hold the gun, and Unosuke grins and tries to fire it, but it only shoots bullets into the ground. Unosuke dies. Ushitora was killed in the initial battle. The samurai spares the life of the young man he had met at the beginning of the story, telling him to return to his father so he can eat mush and live a long life.
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Best part of story, including ending:
The story is entertaining, and I like how it takes the perspective of the samurai whose only motive is to watch the two warring factions destroy each other.
Best scene in story:
I liked the scene where Gonji co-opts Inokichi to carry the coffin out of the ravaged town. It's a clever scene. I like how we the viewer know that the samurai is hidden inside and Inokichi is clueless.
Opinion about the main character:
The character of the samurai is likable because he is independent and he makes decisions based on his intuition. I like how he is unnamed hero (the name he gives to Seibei is probably made up). He also has the best lines. After destroying all the gamblers in the town he says "Now we'll have some peace and quiet in this town."
In 1961 Kurosawa was inspired by American westerns to make this comic-action movie, in which a ronin (rootless samurai) wanders into a town in which each half is at war with the other, and he plays off each against the other (and enriches himself) by skillful killings and whipping up the frenzy. In turn, "Yojimbo" inspired "A Fistful of Dollars" and the much later and inferior "Last Man Standing" (Bruce Willis, 1996), and has been quoted by many other American films, from "Star Wars" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark" to David Lynch's "Wild at Heart." The Mifune character affects to be utterly amoral and cynical, but shows glimpses of honor and tenderness. He is a gripping action hero. (Note: Tatsuya Nakadai, who decades later would tackle the title roles in Kurosawa's "Kagemusha" and "Ran," may be seen in this movie as a young tough with a pistol.)
The review of this Movie prepared by David Loftus