Three Samurai find themselves getting caught in an incident involving a group of peasants who kidnap a magistrate’s daughter to force the magistrate to lower their taxes.
Three Outlaw Samurai is supposed to serve the origin story of a TV series of the same name. But, I have no experience with this TV series, so, I will treat this film as a stand-alone product. Three Outlaw Samurai follows in the tradition of the critically acclaimed Seven Samurai by having the Samurai as the upholder of justice and order. As with many other films of the same era, the Samurai the symbol of Japanese Feudalism become exemplifiers of more Democratic ideals. The entire narrative echoes with a big cry for justice. It is clear that the peasants are the victims and were forced into desperate measures by an uncaring feudal lord. The sheer injustice over the matter gets at the heart of what kind of society feudal Japan was. A society that has clear double standards. It is those in power who keep worsening the matter through their selfishness and ego. It’s basically a contest of ego and prestige against those calling for justice. Three Outlaw Samurai is a brisk affair from start to finish.
The story starts quite literally in the middle of things as Sakon Shiba just randomly stumbles onto the whole incident. It jump starts with this intensity that doesn’t ever stop until the credits roll because of the rather abrupt start. A lack of build up in the story doesn’t lead to any confusion since the story is relatively simple.
But, there is a build up to the character themselves. Seeing the Sakon, Kyojuro and Einosuke going from strangers to close comrades is delightfully charming. It’s a natural evolution from a playful antagonism towards a pragmatic comradery. It’s cry for the justice that connects them. While Three Outlaw Samurai isn’t really a character driven picture, each Samurai is given a romantic interest, but except for Kyojuro’s is quite subtle that serve to give them a vulnerability. Kyojuro is served the cruel fate of falling in love with the wife of the man he accidentally kills. Kyojuro’s love affair ends just in the right way to solidify his good-natured persona.
The swordplay matches the energetic pacing with a kinetic energy. It’s devilishly visceral and stylish, but strangely doesn’t feel like it is glorifying violence since all of the dying characters look rather pathetic and even sympathetic no matter their skill. The climax is the pinnacle of the movie’s visceral style in action. It’s a dogged battle where not only life hangs in the balance, but justice as well. While the ending is downbeat, there remains a rewarding feeling of satisfaction in the steadfast actions of the Samurai.
Three Outlaw Samurai is an energetic romp with swift swordplay that takes a strong moralizing stance against injustice. Three Outlaw Samurai is not only fulfilling to watch, but fun as well.