Original Title: Sanbiki no samurai
Director: Hideo Gosha
16.03.2020: This review was first published on 20.07.2018 and is being updated for a more complete review, together with the publishing of the YouTube Version.
Hello There! I’m dos Santos. Welcome to Ulven Reviews!
Three Outlaw Samurai is a Hideo Gosha film that tells the story of a group of poor farmers who kidnaped the daughter of a magistrate. The men are found by a wanderer Samurai who decides to help them get their fair demands.
Three Outlaw Samurai
Sakon Shiba (played by Tetsurô Tanba) is an honorable wanderer Samurai. One day, while looking for a place to rest, he enters an abandoned barn, and comes across three desperate, starving men, fighting for their rights to a decent life.
Led by Jinbê (played by Kamatari Fujiwara), this group of farmers kidnaped Aya (played by Miyuki Kuwano), the daughter of the magistrate Uzaemon Matsushita (played by Tatsuya Ishiguro). They demand the reduction of taxes, so the people living in the farms can afford to eat, in return, they promise to return the girl unharmed.
The Magistrate, unwilling to give in to the farmers’ demands, choose the use of force and treachery to rescue his daughter and punish the farmers, falling to Shiba the task of protecting the oppressed men.
The Samurai Cinema, also known as Chanbara, has a lot of tragedies, including many adaptations of William Shakespeare’s works. Three Outlaw Samurai follows this trend, having a dark tone and many tragic events throughout.
The film has a very believable and relatable story, taken to an extreme. People suffering in poverty while still being explored so the higher classes can hoard wealth is not something exclusive of a period drama.
The premise of the plot has a similarity with Ceddo. In both movies, the daughter of the person in charge is kidnaped by the representatives of the lower class fighting for better living conditions. Another similarity is around the theme, both being about tyranny, but Ceddo with a focus on religion that Three Outlaw Samurai doesn’t have.
However, the way the stories develop is very different. Three Outlaw Samurai subverts the Samurai stereotype, with three skilled warriors that fight against injustice instead of blind loyalty to the lords. That’s also something I often see in the Chanbara films I watched, the questioning of this so-called honor of the Samurai, that more often than not was classist.
I’m not a specialist in Japanese history, so I’m not talking about historical facts, only about what I could perceive from this movie and other Samurai movies I watched. This will be even clearer in future reviews, make sure to subscribe, so you don’t lose what’s to come.
I love stories about the working people standing up to the powerful, and Three Outlaw Samurai was very satisfying in this topic. Sometimes, however, there are some things rushed and underdeveloped. The best example of this, is a certain rushed romance, that I liked when it started but ended up as unnecessary drama, resembling a Mexican Telenovela.
I was positively surprised that this is Hideo Gosha’s first film, and it’s already a very mature and competent one. Also, he’s not the type of director that makes an immense debut, and then it’s over. I can think of at least two of his movies that are better than Three Outlaw Samurai.
The cast is marvelous. With names like Kamatari Fujiwara, present in several Kurosawa’s works, and Tetsurô Tanba, another excellent actor that, besides the countless Japanese movies, also was featured in Hollywoodian films, such as 1967’s 007, with Sean Connery.
I’m mentioning these two because they are the ones I’m more familiar with, and I think they’re ones the viewers might be more familiar with as well, but the film is filled with talent. The performances are also top-notch.
Tatsuya Ishiguro did an excellent job as Magistrate Uzaemon Matsushita, he really made me hate him. Tetsurô Tanba as Shiba was also flawless, you can see the change the character goes through in the course of the movie.
I didn’t enjoy the character Einosuke Kikyô (played by Mikijirô Hira), one of the three Samurai that gives the movie its title. The performance is on the same level as the others, the problem is the character’s personality. He’s like the annoyed teenager from bad comedies and horrors, but he’s actually a very skilled Samurai.
Kyôjûrô Sakura (played by Isamu Nagato) is the third Samurai, who complete the group. A Ronin, like Shiba, he begins very briefly as an enemy but soon turns into an ally. It’s a character I liked, but then there’s the romance I mentioned before… Not a big fan.
Most of the time, the cinematography is satisfactory. As a black and white movie, the use of light is pretty decent, but in other moments, it’s too dark. The scenes with too many characters in small spaces are too chaotic, even confusing sometimes, especially when in darkness.
Now, the costumes and settings are pretty basic. Very competently made, but average, something we commonly see in the other films of the genre and nothing else that stood out. I’m not mentioning it as a negative, just as neutral.
The musical score is more on the negative side for my taste. Like the instances where there are too many people in tiny spaces, the score is chaotic, almost a mess.
Three Outlaw Samurai, in general, is very decent and deserves praise, while acknowledging it had some annoyances. It’s the first Samurai film I review here, and it will not be the last, for Three Outlaw Samurai, I’m giving 8 Moons.
That’s it for now. Don’t forget to fight for the oppressed against tyranny and fascism. Bye.