The relationship between the traditionally American-made Western and Japanese samurai epics is a fascinating one. Consider that Clint Eastwood’s breakout film role was in A Fistful of Dollars, a near shot-for-shot remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo – which was itself explicitly influenced by the John Ford Westerns of the 1940s. Eastwood would eventually go on to snag a Best Picture Oscar with his dour anti-Western Unforgiven in 1992.
Now, Ken Watanabe (Inception) is set to star in a remake of Unforgiven that moves the narrative from late-1800s Wyoming to Meiji Era Japan. The first full trailer for the film shows off the tale of a former bandit who – desperate for money to feed his struggling family – takes on the bounty for a pair of degenerates sheltering in a distant border town. Much carnage ensues.
This first full preview – which comes after a pair of suggestive but not terribly informative teasers – displays its Western roots up front and center. Though the language may be unfamiliar to most readers and the action contains rather more swordplay than the American original, it looks as if this remake has attempted to retain its progenitor’s grimy, frontier aesthetic as thoroughly as possible. The film even retains the same ratty duster worn by Eastwood in its previous incarnation.
It will be interesting to see just how director Sang-il Lee (Villain) sets Unforgiven apart from its predecessor – other than the addition of swords to the mixture of gunplay and regret. The trailer is visually stunning, with fantastic composition, production design, and cinematography – but will all this be enough to offset a sense of familiarity? With as much talent as there is in front of and behind Unforgiven’s cameras, we genuinely hope that the film will be a worthy addition to both the samurai and Western film canons.
Unforgiven also stars Jun Kunimura (Kill Bill), Yûya Yagira (Nobody Knows), and Akira Emoto (Zatoichi).
Unforgiven will ride into Japanese cinemas on September 13th, 2013. While there is no definite US release date, the high profile of the film all but guarantees at least a limited theatrical run in the near future.