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Red Lion (aka: Akage) is a fairly obscure and unusual Toshiro Mifune picture,
with a well-achieved period setting in a time of Imperial Restoration. Mifune plays Gonzo,
a prodigal son of peasant stock, returning to his hometown after a decade away, bringing
news of sweeping change. However, despite his intentions (half good, part selfish) Gonzo
is simply a buffoon who stutters in confrontations, carries only unofficial messenger's
credentials, and wears a fright wig borrowed from a military commander.
Gonzo finds that greedy taxmen have imprisoned daughters and girlfriends of his townspeople, so he cancels all outstanding debts, closes the gambling dens, and frees local prostitutes. The mincing local baddies hire a bully to sort out their new problem, but the suddenly popular Gonzo meets his downfall not by violence but by trying to fix too many things, correct every injustice at once. It all ends in a satisfactory sword fight and gun battle featuring an army of white-wigged troops.
The cinematography is excellent throughout, in this ambitious mix of romantic drama, comedy adventure with the accent on slapstick (Gonzo rides into town and promptly falls off his horse) and political intrigue, but I found the subtitling suspect with when crowds are chanting: "It's OK! Nevermind."
DVD extras: text-only plot synopsis, biographies of star and director, poster art, cast photo gallery, info and trailers for several other martial arts releases on the Warrior label.
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