Westerns and samurai films translate fairly well.  They both feature groups who have a code, those groups are skilled with a particular weapon, and their way of life has begun to fade as the frontier closes and modernity arrives.  Most famous among the films that have made successful transfers are Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai going to John Sturges’ The Magnifcent Sevenand Kurosawa’s Yojimbo going to Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars, although Kurosawa’s movies are superior to their remakes.  Now, America has sent one back the other way with director Lee Sang-il remaking Clint Eastwood’s classic western, Unforgiven.  While the markers are still in place, Sang-il attempts to reframe his remake through the lens of Japanese history.  However, he doesn’t change enough and remains tethered to the themes of Eastwood’s film, and these themes don’t coalesce in Sang-il’s picture.  Although Sang-il’s Unforgiven features stunning cinematography and a lovely score, the overall work is stuck between the demythologizing of one genre and the historical context of another.

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