Friday 28 February 2014

"Unforgiven" (The Guardian 28/02/14)

Unforgiven ***
Dir: Lee Sang-il. With: Ken Watanabe, Akira Emoto, Shiori Kutsuna. 135 mins. Cert: 15

The symmetry is irresistible. 1964’s A Fistful of Dollars, a remake of Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, made an international star of Clint Eastwood; now Eastwood’s valedictory 1992 Western has been remade by Korean-Japanese director Lee Sang-il. The tale of an ageing warrior (here Letters from Iwo Jima’s Ken Watanabe) who returns to the saddle to avenge a vicious attack on a prostitute translates fluently to the late samurai era, allowing Lee to refresh the action in pitting rusting swords against the emergent pistol. Narratively, it’s limited by a certain lack of surprises: if the territory’s new-ish, the characters are ported over unaltered from David Webb Peoples’ screenplay, and their interplay doesn’t yield any insights on the grim business of killing that Clint hadn’t already spat out. Still, it’s an enduring yarn, well told: a rare remake that functions independently, even as it reminds you – vividly, in places – of the original’s elegiac pleasures. 

Unforgiven opens in selected cinemas from today.

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