Unforgiven / Yurusarezaru mono / 許されざる者
Maybe it’s belated revenge for the pilfering of Seven Samurai to make The Magnificent Seven. Sang Il-Lee’s jidaigeki remake of Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven is a ravishingly beautiful affair with a clever conceit of reimagining 1880s Hokkaido as a lawless and brutal land akin to the Wild West, with the Ainu standing in for Native Americans. The top-notch cast goes through the motions of recreating Eastwood’s unforgettable characters. Ken Watanabe does a fiercely poker-faced Clint, but lacks the iconic resonance that Eastwood brings to each and every one of his roles. Koichi Sato is appropriately badass, but he ain’t Gene Hackman. Great character actor Akira Emoto does his best to fill Morgan Freeman’s shoes. And most odd is Ainu sidekick/Schofield Kid, Yuuya Agira, who channels Toshiro Mifune at his most itching and scratching buffoonery, to no apparent end. Where Sang Il-Lee’s version fails is in its dependence on character identification with the original, instead of developing credible characters of its own – and worse, its annoyingly sentimentality, which played no part in Eastwood’s masterpiece.
Originally published in EL Magazine, September 2013.