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Ambush At Blood Pass
cast: Toshiro Mifune

director: Inagaki Hiroshi

118 minutes (12) 1970
widescreen 2.35:1
Warrior retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Ian Shutter
Ambush (aka: Machibuse) is a slow burning samurai comedy-drama starring Toshiro Mifune - as the ronin with a conscience who finds himself embroiled in a mysterious yakuza conspiracy backed by political subversives, when hired for a secret mission involving suspected banditry on a mountain road.
   The main action centres on a stopover rendezvous for robber gangs planning to snatch a shipment of shogun's gold. Mifune's swordsman rescues a battered wife, and faces down both a criminal mastermind and the leader of murderous thieves, in a story that cleverly mixes wild western tropes with a theatrical script and plotting. But for some telling close-ups, and the climactic blitz of exterior violence, this film is very much like a stage play in structure and presentation. It has plenty of dramatic tension, good-humoured interaction between the various characters and strong casting, but the complex intrigues and subplot details feel somewhat locked in at times, confined to one teahouse setting.
   One for fans of low-key Kurosawa, not fast moving kung fu movies. The video is produced from a quality widescreen print, in its original language, with nifty coloured English subtitles placed outside the frame - and even has definitions of certain Japanese words and terms at top of the screen, for the uninitiated.
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