Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Red Sun (1972)

I guess the best thing I can say about this picture is it was serviceable. Serviceable doesn't really cut it, however, when your picture stars Charles Bronson and Toshiro Mifune. It also stars Alain Delon who I probably should know, but, after looking over his imdb page it turns out I don't. Ursula Andress is also in this thing and pretty attractive. She gets naked in this picture so I'm gonna change her name to Ursula Undress. See what I did there? Clever.

Anyway, it's been a couple weeks since I saw this one. If I'm gonna keep reviewing a movie a day during the week then I gotta pick something so this one wins out. I remember enjoying it. It takes place sometime in the late nineteenth century. A Japanese ambassador travels to the United States with a couple samurai guards accompanying him. This being the nineteenth century we can assume (and then have confirmed by watching the movie) that he takes a boat across the Pacific to California and then hops on a train to take him to Washington, D.C. Once there, he'll present the President (I don't know...Arthur or Garfield or something) with a ceremonial sword on behalf of the emperor. Oh yeah, and one of the Samurai's with him is Yojimobo, in the flesh.

Well, no one told these guys about the wild west 'cause as soon as they board the train a bunch of rough and tumble outlaws come on board with guns. Since guns are better than swords they steal the sword (maybe diamonds too, but I can't remember). One of Yojimbo's buddies doesn't like the idea of being disgraced so he goes after one of the bandits and gets shot dead (off screen). Oh, and two of the bandits are played by Delon and Bronson only Delon betrays Bronson and makes off with the sword (and maybe diamonds). This leaves Bronson to, reluctantly, team up with Yojimbo and pursue Delon. They have a time limit (couple weeks) after which Yojimbo will be forced to kill himself (seppuku). Plenty of time for some Rush Hour like hilarity. Oh, and Andress fits in here somewhere as Delon's lover who is also willing to whore herself out to Bronson as long as it benefits her somehow.

My favorite parts are the ones with Bronson and Mifune walking through the desert, in pursuit of Delon. Bronson creates such a likable character (sorry, forgot his name) that even though he'd kill Mifune if the opportunity came up we still root for him (not to kill Mifune, but to at least stay alive). He spends the first thirty minutes or so trying to get away. Mifune is pretty persistent. And, so is Bronson. Bronson keeps coming at Mifune who keeps beating him down. Bronson pushes Mifune off a mountain but he makes it back before Bronson's gone ten feet. Neither gives up. That's why we like them. Later, of course, they come to respect each other and ultimately become friends.

Unfortunately, while this picture has two guys that worked with Sergio Leone and Akira Kurosawa, it doesn't have anyone on the other side of the camera with Leone's or Kurosawa's sense of style. Which is why I labeled this thing "serviceable" earlier. The director worked on a couple of early James Bond pictures and then some other shit I never heard of. He's good, but not exactly an artist. Not too many beautiful wide shots and lots of poorly staged fights. Yojimbo fights an Indian at one point, one on one, so maybe the director is comparing the plight of the Indians to the plight of the Samurai. Sorry, Native Americans?

Anyway, it's a good one but if you want to see a movie with a similar theme and a better story I'd suggest Hell in the Pacific where Mifune plays a Japanese soldier during World War II marooned on an island with Lee Marvin. Mifune doesn't speak a word of English and the filmmakers don't bother translating, yet it's still a terrific performance. He's better there than here is what I'm getting at. So, I recommend this one as long as you lower your expectations.

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