In director Akira Kurosawa's comedic YOJIMBO, a masterless samurai, Sanjuro (Toshirô Mifune), wanders into a town divided by two warring clans. After displaying his formidable swordsmanship before both clans in a brawl with street thugs, Sanjuro offers his services to the highest bidder. When one clan conspires against him, the clever warrior switches his allegiance to the other side, with the ultimate goal of tricking the two equally despicable and foolish clans into exterminating each other. Sanjuro's authority is challenged, however, when Unosuke (Tatsuya Nakadai), a brother of one of the leaders, comes to town wielding a modern contraption: a gun. In the classic final showdown, the old world samurai is pitted against new world progress, and must use both his wits and physical prowess to survive.
Perhaps Kurosawa's most overtly comic film, YOJIMBO easily ranks with the director's finest work. In this reconception of the Western, Mifune plays Sanjuro, the tough mercenary of few words, to perfection, often allowing his subtle movements and swift actions speak for him. Throughout the entire film, Sanjuro is vigilant yet stoic, conceding that he finds the scenario entertaining and absurd, and essentially has nothing to lose. Mifune's outstanding performance, combined with Kurosawa's expert direction and Kazuo Miyagawa's beautifully balanced photography, makes for one of the finest, and funniest, films in Japanese cinema.