(1961)5Jonathan CrowYojimbo is both a brilliant reworking of the samurai genre and arguably director Akira Kurosawa's most influential work. Toshiro Mifune gives the finest performance of his stellar career as Sanjuro, a bored, flea-bitten, and thoroughly amoral ronin who possesses almost superhuman swordmanship. Like a Greek god descending from Mount Olympus, Sanjuro comes upon a village torn asunder by two rival groups and cleans up the town. Like Gary Cooper in High Noon (1952), Sanjuro finds himself in a village full of greedy, weak, and bad people that probably does not deserve saving. Unlike Cooper, whose face grows grim with the moral importance of his act, Sanjuro smirks with anarchic glee as he deftly picks one side against the other. With a wry, subversive wit, Kurosawa marries his muscular narrative to a swaggering visual style, aided by the masterful cinematography of Kazuo Miyagawa. From the Sanjuro's final duel with young gun-toting thug Unosuke (Tatsuya Nakadai) to the single grotesque image of a dog clutching a human hand at the film's outset, Yojimbo crackles with a dynamic energy that rivets and entertains. Though Yojimbo spun off a number of remakes, including Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars (1964) and Walter Hill's Last Man Standing (1996), none matches the film's technical brilliance and dark humor.