Thirty-years after writing the script with fellow master directors Akira Kirosawa, Masaki Kobayashi and Keisuke Kinoshita, Kon Ichikawa brings the story of an unruly samurai (Koji Yakusho) to the screen. Nicknamed Dora-Heita ("Alley Cat") for his penchant for debauchery, the samurai is assigned to clean up a lawless small town. His reputation is well-known, so the local Yakuza thugs are in disbelief when the new magistrate (bugyo) gets down to business.
I just finished watching my 100th samurai flick which was one of the Zatoichi films. I'm now up to 102 samurai films after watching the first two from the Sleepy Eyes of Death series. Today I want to write about Dora Heita which I watched a few weeks ago. The film was actually planned many years ago by the famous directors Kurosawa, Kinoshita, Kobayashi and Ichikawa who formed Yonki-no-kai or The Committee of Four Knights in 1969 and wrote the script together. Only after three of them had died, Ichikawa could finally make his 74th movie out of their script. So even though the film was released in 2000 for me it really had more of a classic 60's samurai chambara film feel. What this means is that like most Kurosawa films, you won't see a 2 hour bloody samurai sword movie. There is one excellent sword fight scene but Dora Heita does not even confront the Yakuza until well into the film. The first 45 minutes of the film follow Dora Heita as he builds up his plan for taking down the powerful yakuza. The acting is very good in this film especially with Koji Yakusho as the streetwise magistrate sent in to clean up the yakuza infected town. This film coming from the mind of Akira Kurosawa does have a lot of similarity to Kurosawa's great films Yojimbo and Sanjuro. This film however is not in the same league as Kurosawa's Yojimbo flicks as it does not have the quality of a Toshiro Mifune. However, it is still a very good film as long you don't compare it too much to Yojimbo.