Thursday, January 8, 2015

Film Review: Unforgiven (2013)

Unforgiven (Review)
Japan/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Blu-ray (Warner Home Video UK)
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...a very effective and entertaining drama."

Jubei Kamata (Ken Watanabe), a former samurai, joins an old associate to help claim the bounty of two other former samurai who severely disfigured a prostitute...

Unforgiven follows a reluctant Jubei, his old friend Kingo (Akira Emoto), and a tag-along, Goro (Yūya Yagira), as they venture to claim the bounty -- a bounty setup by the prostitutes. The task is more difficult than expected as the local lawman, Ichizo Oishi (Kōichi Satō), rules with an iron fist and Jubei struggles with his moral dilemma. It would seem Jubei suffers more and more as he delves deeper into the job. The narrative is fairly simple, as you can see, yet engaging. It leads to a strong climax and powerful ending, as well.

Unforgiven is a strong film. It has some very interesting characters and conflicts, albeit somewhat cliché. I could see where Jubei's character was headed, but I still enjoyed the haunting journey. I really liked the character conflicts, as well. There are only a few action sequences in this film, so don't expect some Michael Bay explosions and such. However, the film managed to engage through well-developed drama and tension -- you could really feel the suspense in the atmosphere. The few action sequences in the film are also splendid.

So, what's wrong with Unforgiven? Not much, really. I guess it's because it's not really ambitious -- and it doesn't have to be. However, this makes the film a bit too simple. This doesn't fair too well when it's coupled with a 2 hour 10 minute runtime and a slow pace. So, there are a few dull moments here and there, particularly due to what felt like a bloated runtime. I'd say you could cut out at least 15 minutes of this film and still receive an equally effective experience. The slow-burn pace is good when it works -- like during its tense scenes -- but it doesn't work so well during the filler scenes. That's really the only issue I had with the film: a little too much filler, which led to a little boredom. (I stress a little, because it was only a little.)

The technical side of the film is superb, though. Ken Watanabe is fantastic as the lead, while Kōichi Satō and Yūya Yagira offer great support. The film is shot beautifully. The cinematography is absolutely elegant, Unforgiven is unbelievably beautiful. The music also blends with the film perfectly, it really amplifies the drama and emotion of the film. Director Lee Sang-il takes a step up from Villain, in my opinion, but still strikes out with the pacing. It's really a technically marvelous film and the narrative, despite its simplicity, is engaging and effective, but there could have been some fine-tuning in here to make the slow pace more forgiving. (You get it? Unforgiven is the name of the film, and I... Never mind.)

I own the UK steelbook blu-ray. The film looks marvelous in high definition, and the sound is superb for the most part. The English subtitles are embedded into the film -- you can't turn them on or off, they're always there. As for the translation, I don't speak Japanese, but I didn't notice any spelling or grammar mistakes in the subtitles. Thanks to the beautiful cinematography and soundtrack, as well as the overall quality of the film, I don't regret paying the premium to have this blu-ray imported.

Overall, Unforgiven is a great film. It has some filler and pacing issues, but it's ultimately a very effective and entertaining drama. Now, being someone who's reviewed hundreds of films and who's watched more than a thousand on top of that, I am a bit embarrassed to say: I've never seen Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven. Don't ask me why, it's simply something I wanted to add to this review. Why add this to the review? Well, to show you this is an unbiased opinion -- I have no dog in this remake fight, I can't tell you if the original is better or if the remake butchered it. So, there you have it. If you don't mind a slow-pace and love beautiful films, this one is for you.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood.

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