Jubei Kamata (Ken Watanabe) brings swords to a gunfight as an aging samurai in this highly anticipated Japanese adaptation of Clint Eastwood’s 1992 Best Picture Winner Unforgiven. Living as a struggling farmer and widowed father in post-war Hokkaido, a visit from an old companion named Kingo (Akira Emoto) opens up an opportunity for Jubei to provide for his children. But in order to claim the reward secure a bright future for his children Jubei must confront personal demons from his own dark past.
After ten years in hiding, assassin Jubei’s ventures into a world he no longer knows and that has forgotten him. His reputation as “The Killer” no longer precedes him. Along their journey Goro (Yuya Yagira), a hotheaded young bounty hunter joins Jubei and Kamata, but tensions between generations threaten to derail the trio’s task before it has even begun. Their quest for justice and riches is further endangered by a sadistic sheriff (Koichi Sato). With danger around every corner and an enemy always waiting in the shadows, Jubei’s attempt at redemption for his violent past grows more difficult with each passing day, and time runs short when sheriff Oishi begins to flex his muscles.
While Hollywood is known for rebooting successful Japanese films (Infernal Affairs as The Departed, Seven Samurai as The Magnificent Seven, Ringu), director Lee Sang-il pulls a reversal by transporting Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven from Wyoming to the uncharted Northern area of Japan. The disgraced post-war cowboy is transposed to a disgraced post-war samurai. The rich cast of characters and multitude of bravura performances in Lee Sang-il’s are reminiscent of the 1992 Western that was beloved by audiences in America. Still, to call the 2013 update of Unforgiven a simple remake would be unjust. Watanabe and Sang-il come together for a dramatic collaboration that builds towards an explosive final act.