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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 23.83%
Just Average: 8.98%
Pretty Crappy: 8.98%
Sucks: 5.47%

11 reviews, 190 user ratings

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Last Samurai, The
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by Erik Childress

"What's Old Is New And Maybe Even Better"
5 stars

As a film critic, movie lover, etc., you pride yourself on trying to see it all and chances are you HAVE seen it all, since just about every idea has been explored, remade, reimagined, and spewed back out before you can say “ka-ching”. We conciliate ourselves on rehashed material with phrases like “it’s not the outcome, it’s the journey” and revel in the positives outweighing the negatives as we admit it not being the most original of ideas. In the case of The Last Samurai, all I can say is that I’m guilty in the first degree of loving a new film based on an old idea.

Tom Cruise is Nathan Algren, a civil war hero who in 1876 is biding his time with the bottle and hawking the latest-and-greatest rifles in a carnival-like sideshow. His good friend, Sgt. Zebulon Gant (Billy Connolly), finds him and introduces him to a Japanese officer (Masato Harada) who is looking for someone to train an army to stop an uprising that will set back the government’s plan for progression. Algren is less than thrilled to be again in the company of his former commander, Col. Benjamin Bagly (Tony Goldwyn), who has a Custer complex that put Nathan at odds with his own conscience.

In Japan, while in the midst of training the group of hopelessly inexperienced draftees, impatience leads to a slaughter and brings Algren to the attention of Samurai leader Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe), as his captive. Katsumoto admires Algren’s bravery in the face of certain death and wants to understand his enemy by reading his diary and engaging in “conversations” with him. Algren’s custody makes him more a guest than a traditional P.O.W. and it allows him to adapt to the village’s way of life, learn some new fighting techniques, and in turn come to understand the people he was made to believe were HIS enemy.

If substituting Kevin Costner and a handful of Indians ain’t that far a stretch in your mind, then chances are you may even recognize bits of director Edward Zwick’s own Glory on display. Both films are part of the long Hollywood tradition of great white moviestars on hand to either learn from or help a minority culture unfamiliar to an ignorant Western audience. It’s equally ignorant to just focus on this one particular aspect and allow it to eclipse what is an amazingly well-told story.

Watanabe commands the part of Katsumoto with such conviction that Cruise’s Algren just about becomes the little voice inside his head as if he doesn’t exist at all. Cruise isn’t to be faulted for his performance, since even as he allows himself more than a few Cruise-in-full-samurai-pose moments, he all but gives the film to Watanabe, who easily recalls the strength of Kurosawa’s clan of actors and dominates the film. Anyone who believes the title refers to Algren is dead wrong.

Those who believe Zwick is being impertinent to the Japanese culture or the politics of the day with the Great White Cruise factor aren't paying attention to what he is being respectful to, which is the mythic aspect of this ancient period. Having already paid tribute to Kurosawa with his Rashomon-updating Courage Under Fire, Zwick creates an ode to the master with calls to duty, splendid battle sequences and a look by cinematographer John Toll (The Thin Red Line) that captures the period in a way that could be hung in an art museum and is impossible to look away from.

The Last Samurai is so strong in its storytelling prowess that taking Cruise out of this equation likely wouldn’t hurt it at all. It also wouldn’t necessarily improve it except to appease those transfixed on that factor to begin with. The end-of-an-era sensibility that permeates it is an important one as modern times bring about the rise of convenience and all but eliminate the concept of honor. The old East of man-to-man, up-close-and-personal with blades has no reservations about moving into a more efficient, if Cowardly Lion-like future with the West’s fascination with guns.

The screenplay by Zwick, Marshall Herskovitz and John Logan keeps the story moving so well that it almost blindly brushes past the potential criticism of past effort comparisons. Algren’s journey runs nearly parallel with that of Costner’s John Dunbar, throwing in a mighty second-in-command warrior who hates this intruder and a burgeoning relationship with the woman (Koyuki) whose husband he killed. Zwick’s Glory is also reminisced with the new conscripts' first battle test in the forest and someone to hold onto Algren’s writings before a suicidal final attack. Goldwyn’s commander is also an extension of Cliff DeYoung’s single-minded slaughterer from that Civil War epic.

The Last Samurai casts such a spell with its beauty, performances and four solid action sequences that it's easy to forget and even easier to forgive its derivative nature. If the film manages to have one flaw, it is to give credence to the naysayers’ foundation with a final ten minutes that necessitates a need for a happier ending and cries out for the “white man teaches others how to live” argument. I’d hate to think that Algren was indirectly responsible for Pearl Harbor nearly 60 years later. Tradition will go on. Hollywood will continue making these kinds of films and the ghosts of the naysayers will echo in my mind long after I’m dead. As long as they make them as good as this, I don’t care.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8374&reviewer=198
originally posted: 12/05/03 01:01:59
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell boring imho 1 stars
2/17/16 Richard Pierro Outstanding 5 stars
11/16/15 A Korean Ridiculous. The Imperial troopers had a year to train, but can'take hit a guy with a bow an 2 stars
12/29/11 Jeff Wilder Formulaic in spots. But still worthy. Better than Dances With Wolves. 4 stars
6/01/11 Bethany Pairitz Great great great movie 5 stars
1/23/11 Ziman One of the best reviews I have read. Thank you very much; I do share your thoughts about it 1 stars
1/10/11 DanRiaz Fantastic film, very moving in parts - highly recommended - ignore any bad reviews! 5 stars
5/13/10 Mamady Nice movie mayng 4 stars
4/10/10 David Very Moving, A Fantastic movie. 5 stars
6/07/09 the dork knight Liked it better when it was Dances With Wolves. 4 stars
3/10/09 Jimmy Awesome! Action scenes were right on-point, too. Check it out! 5 stars
2/04/09 Faraz J Awesome. Worthy of a repeat. 5 stars
10/24/08 Gloria D. Great scenes, I really liked this film 4 stars
10/07/08 Shaun Wallner I really enjoyed this film. 5 stars
9/04/08 Rachel Better than expected, but still do not buy Tommy Cruise as a Samurai warrior. 4 stars
8/27/08 michael thomas excellent movie loved it enough to see it 2 times in the theater and even bought the dvd 5 stars
7/03/08 Alex Thorne A Tom Cruise film i actually like!. a wonderful, soulful film 5 stars
5/13/08 daveyt despite my better judgement on what's 'good' I love it...! 5 stars
3/28/08 Pamela White Wonderful redeeming of a person in spite of himself 5 stars
6/11/07 al smith a true epic in every sense of the word should have won loads of oscars 5 stars
2/06/07 AJ Muller Spectacular. Thrilling action and honest emotion make for a true epic. 5 stars
12/12/06 MP Bartley An ego trip for Cruise, and too self-important, but still packs an epic zing and punch. 4 stars
6/18/06 R.W.Welch Oriental actioner has fine camera work tho ending is too Hollywood. 4 stars
5/11/06 ES I wish I lived in that time and in that place 5 stars
3/27/06 Monster W. Kung A piece of crap! 2 stars
2/20/06 Agent Sands Beautiful. 5 stars
12/15/05 Rey Emmanuel "Paloy" A. Dabatian It Is soooooooooo GOOd 5 stars
11/21/05 Kurtis J. Beard Epic albeit contrived. Swept me away. Just don't think too hard. 4 stars
11/15/05 cooler I loved it.Epic music and a backdrop to some of the most spectacular battles ever filmed. 5 stars
11/14/05 Quigley a very violent movie, but well acted & well made. Cruise wasn't all bad; fighting was cool 5 stars
10/06/05 Wisamane wow this movie was incredible, Very Creative Story it will blow your mind to shit!!! 5 stars
9/19/05 Jonathon Holmes the best film of 2003 5 stars
9/07/05 Ric A few over-the-top moments ring false, but it's an otherwise rousing battle epic. 5 stars
8/23/05 loscemo I liked it but didn't love it. The buddy-buddy ending felt too hollywood to me. 3 stars
8/20/05 chris hagopian It was emotional, with excellent acting 4 stars
8/19/05 Carolyn Rathburn It was a good movie, not really what I had expected 4 stars
8/19/05 Monster W. Kung An awful story, full of cliches, with decent cinematography. 2 stars
8/19/05 Honor above Lies A fine film with some worthwhile themes and thoughts, America being it's usual stupid self 4 stars
8/18/05 ES Ken Watanabe rules, this movie was definately better than I would have thought 5 stars
8/02/05 ALDO Cruise sucks in this one. Overdone. 2 stars
7/29/05 love very american ending.The only surviving samurai is not Japanese but American!Hello!!! 4 stars
7/25/05 Edward Aizen As always, Tom Cruise prevails...honor in death, enough said 5 stars
7/09/05 Moctezuma A great one 5 stars
7/06/05 Pinkline Jones Spoilt by Shinkansen in background 3 stars
6/07/05 JD awesome movie, very enjoyable. 5 stars
5/10/05 Simon Beautifully representative of much of what I've come to believe. 5 stars
4/27/05 Quigley a very good story that has many thoughtful elements to it. Cruise does surprisingly good 4 stars
4/12/05 Ronin Tom using katanas with skill, not very realistic. Fortunately there is more than that. 4 stars
3/25/05 Denise very good 5 stars
3/01/05 simon buxton breathtaking. ken wantanabe made it a great epic 5 stars
2/23/05 Dusty Johnson I liked the action but not as good as the miniseries. 4 stars
2/11/05 Aimee Shelton The acting was really good in this film. Which is saying a lot for most Cruise movies! 4 stars
2/11/05 J. Elaine Greenup Very interesting 4 stars
2/10/05 Sharon Davis Pretty good 4 stars
2/08/05 Lisa Jochelson It was better than I thought it would be. I enjoyed it. 4 stars
2/07/05 Richard Linxwiler One of the best movies Tom Cruise has made. 5 stars
2/03/05 Tanya Grays it was an okay movie but not realistic about the Japanese 3 stars
2/03/05 Kent B. On the fence. I am not sure if I liked it or not. 3 stars
2/01/05 Joe Kolarz Great movie, Tom Cruise is awesome 5 stars
2/01/05 Alice Colwell I don't like Tom Cruise, but have to admit I rerally liked this movie 5 stars
1/31/05 Danita Berg Freaking hated this movie. Boooooring. 2 stars
1/31/05 Christy Harris 2 Thumbs up! 4 stars
1/31/05 bongeezer One white guy proves to be a better samurai than all Japanese? 2 stars
1/31/05 Lynda Eby Cruise was more than just a pretty face in this one. 4 stars
1/31/05 Andrea Haresign YAAAWWWN 2 stars
1/29/05 Charlene Javier Except for Tom, the movie's fine... 4 stars
1/29/05 Frank Tells good movie 4 stars
1/29/05 Caroline The relationship was stagnant... maybe it was a cultural leap, but I didn't get it. 3 stars
1/29/05 Christine Fidance Excellent movie and Tom Cruise was exceptional in it 5 stars
1/28/05 Carolyn Rathburn While this film lost my attention somewhere in the middle, the ending brought you back. 4 stars
1/12/05 Aaron Brown One of the best movies I have ever seen because of its emotion, screenplay, and dialogue. 5 stars
12/21/04 Ryan Impressive movie 5 stars
12/04/04 Last samarai owns But dont thinks it owns rotk EE that is better,but LS STILL OWNAGE 5 stars
11/11/04 Hilary Adamson C'mon Scott Weinberg. DANCES WITH WOLVES is a plea for peace. This celebrates a bloodbath! 2 stars
8/21/04 Daveman Watchable but very silly and not particularly interesting. 3 stars
8/09/04 Jeff Needed a little more graphic realism, but for a period piece, nicely done. 5 stars
8/07/04 ALDO Great FILM...GO WATCH IT....What more can i say 5 stars
7/28/04 Dylan Smith The Last Samurai was the best movie. 5 stars
7/13/04 Graham Shallow, uninteresting, mediocre action, no period detail, well-acted. 2 stars
7/07/04 Shams Huque Superb film! 5 stars
7/04/04 Kai Well told story merged with powerfull music !! 5 stars
6/30/04 Piz A modern day Dances With Wolves. Well-shot, can get slow at times. 4 stars
6/18/04 Denise Duspiva cruise is great 5 stars
6/17/04 P toya Political correctness kissing a brutal feudal miltary culture. Nice sword play. 1 stars
6/07/04 Ron Miller Cruise was great; fantastic ending, great fight scenes! 4 stars
6/06/04 Monster W. Kung Really not that great; aims high, but fails. 3 stars
5/30/04 Frazier A well told story about a disappearing culture, a powerful epict. 5 stars
5/25/04 Mitch A bit cliched and overwrought, but not bad all in all. 4 stars
5/15/04 Peter Williams Great movie, if not for Return of the King this was the best movie in 2003. 5 stars
5/06/04 Diane Watson Apart from Tom Cruise who appeared in almost every scene, and somehow manages to survive wh 5 stars
5/02/04 breremarer Great movie! Tome Cruise+Japan=epic 5 stars
5/01/04 Marisa Monroe One of the worst films I've seen in sometime. Cruise makes a laughable samurai. Skip it. 2 stars
4/22/04 Elena The film was well done, not inaccurate, but just WHY Tom Cruise??? 4 stars
4/05/04 Agent Sands Fuck the Cruise-haters. This flick could've starred Jim Breuer & still kicked major ass. 5 stars
3/27/04 qemm Perfect acting and scenes. Everything seems very authentic. Superb movie. 5 stars
3/23/04 Bikramjit Certainly one of the best movies in recent times 5 stars
3/17/04 Quienietra Dumantravska Those Samurai forces charge forth on pink horses! 2 stars
3/12/04 atreida beautiful movie with great cast 5 stars
3/08/04 Blaine Holloway best film of 2003, yes, better than return of the king 5 stars
2/26/04 Troy Butler Not quite five stars, ... but very impressive nonetheless!!! 4 stars
2/24/04 Soulis profound, well acted, amazing scenes 5 stars
2/21/04 Denise Duspiva Great 5 stars
2/18/04 Caiphn I don't understand what movie an individual could ever enjoy to think that this 'sucked'. 5 stars
2/11/04 Obi Wan Great movie...quickly became one of my favorites...four trips to the theatre & waitin 4 DVD 5 stars
2/08/04 Gretchen Seitz Insists on having bloodbath kill thousands when title character kills self either way. Why? 2 stars
2/07/04 ladeela definitely better than expected, its great, EVEN tom cruis was good 5 stars
2/03/04 Psycho_Gunman History aside. It's about Samurais and Bushido simplified. 5 stars
2/02/04 rron its very good film 5 stars
1/30/04 Gookkuu I think if you have some knowledge about Japan's history ,you will enjoy with it more!!! 5 stars
1/29/04 Jonathan Clark This is the best movie i have ever seen. It has become my favorite movie of all time. 5 stars
1/28/04 sumixam Great except when TC spoke some very corny lines 4 stars
1/28/04 Mark Parlato Trigona Speechless - This is an awe inspiring movie 5 stars
1/22/04 Paul It is ther best goddamn movie i have ever seen...i think. 5 stars
1/22/04 JamesVG Seven Samurai is better, but this was still great. 5 stars
1/20/04 Af Harrison sucks BIG time 1 stars
1/19/04 C P Hung I enjoyed it and both Tom Cruise & Watanable are excellent. 5 stars
1/18/04 Tini Superb 5 stars
1/18/04 Flip I loved this movie! Even though it is not historicacly acurate. I as a person strive to liv 5 stars
1/15/04 gloria great movie, intriguing, great actors. 5 stars
1/15/04 Chance Great epic type movie 5 stars
1/14/04 malcolm a little melodramatic but gorgeous overall 5 stars
1/14/04 Betty White Overblown, overplotted action flick with Cruise giving a phone-in performance. 1 stars
1/13/04 Horacio Offensive Like saying a foreigner was responsible for Brazil wining the 1970 world cup. 1 stars
1/12/04 Steve Great 5 stars
1/11/04 (none) A wonderful and film. Great performance by Watanabe. 5 stars
1/10/04 Chopper3 Just another 'join-the-dots' hollywood number, completely predictable and forgetable. 1 stars
1/10/04 John Sellin How much longer will we have to endure this continual re-discovery of Americanism. 1 stars
1/10/04 Shadaan Felfeli I loved the film. Its very Zen and Very Beautiful. 5 stars
1/09/04 Daniel Barf! American saves Samourai tradition?Ha ha. Effects? Hey I saw dinosaurs on screen once. 3 stars
1/07/04 KICK ASS OR DONT COME HOME! looks like tom is goin home then ;) 5 stars
1/06/04 Chance Excellent. 5 stars
1/05/04 jason moving 5 stars
1/05/04 Patrick with a Brain Name this movie something else, so people won't confuse it with history. It didn't happen. 2 stars
1/02/04 A F Why Cruise? It would have been nice to see him decapitated. 4 stars
12/31/03 Mattie G Cruise pulls it off. Great film. Has a bit of everything. 5 stars
12/31/03 Obi Wan Watching it a 3rd time has reaffirmed that this is a 5 Star movie still!!! 5 stars
12/31/03 Maureen Flipping Great 5 stars
12/30/03 Angolmois Contrives plot. If Cruise was so honorable, why didn't he commit suicide too? Good visuals. 4 stars
12/29/03 JC Beautiful portrayal of Japanese culture.This film has touched me in a personal level.A++++ 5 stars
12/28/03 Agent Sands As well as giving us usual war film goods, it's a beautiful portrayal of Japanese culture. 5 stars
12/27/03 Jim Incredible movie 5 stars
12/26/03 Marvin P. top movie contender of the year 5 stars
12/25/03 ajay painfully boring. didn't enjoy it at all and wish I saw LOTR again... 2 stars
12/22/03 Fastbug If you liked DWW, you'll love this. An Oscar contender for sure! 5 stars
12/22/03 Caiphn 'Glorifies the rise of militaristic Japan'? Are you friggin retarded?Did you even watch it? 5 stars
12/21/03 Bill Cawlfield Cruise at his best 5 stars
12/19/03 your worst goddamn nightmare the only movie i can think of where a woman dresses a man and makes it so sensual & subtle 5 stars
12/18/03 Peter Americanized and it glorifies the rise of a militaristic Japan. 1 stars
12/17/03 Cool Leather Jack buuutiful work, loved it 5 stars
12/16/03 Gematria Are you kidding? This cliched piece of drivel is an insult. 2 stars
12/15/03 Emmy the best movie ever!!!!!! 5 stars
12/14/03 Gil Carlson A moving story, magnificently filmed 5 stars
12/13/03 Eric Powerful and emotional with some of the best battle scenes ever put on film. 5 stars
12/12/03 Tom Cruise I am a daft cunt. I really suck. 1 stars
12/11/03 Sean Emrick Best Film Ever 5 stars
12/11/03 Koitus Great movie! I particularly liked the Ninja attack, in the village! 5 stars
12/11/03 Darkheart Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. 5 stars
12/10/03 Cypher Great, very accurate to the samurai way. definantly worth the 7$. one of the best movies 5 stars
12/10/03 Nick Althought it felt odd, the movie is Oscar/Grammy Bound. I hope the JP actors get credit too 5 stars
12/09/03 nick2k i want the fucking dvd NOW!!! 5 stars
12/08/03 Simon the Great dis movie was full of homos stuff sammurri stuff wuz sooo boring. no hot chikc. 1 stars
12/08/03 jay poor..Cruise hollywoody Samurai..lousy Oriental Braveheart, give me a break ! 2 stars
12/08/03 Obi Wan Great...maybe Crowe could have played Nathan, but still great!! 5 stars
12/08/03 Unanon Good, despite the Cruise factor. 4 stars
12/08/03 Peter Yet another Cruise career vehicle. The 'Dimpled One' miscasts himself in historical films. 3 stars
12/08/03 alex I was suprized by Cruise, he did good job, but Watanabe was the reason why I loved the film 5 stars
12/07/03 Wolf 1st half hour, Cruise is acting(poorly) - rest of film, he's LIVING the role. 5 stars
12/07/03 Gray one ethnic group being shown as better than another=shit 1 stars
12/07/03 tony El nino anyone tht says this movie is less than swesome can shove one, this is the best movie!! 5 stars
12/07/03 Ryan beginning too long, good overall 5 stars
12/07/03 ROTK=2004 Oscar!! Braveheart owns this piece of shit. 1 stars
12/07/03 joe slow, a yawner 2 stars
12/07/03 Fenian Absolutely masterful. Screenplay, cinematography, acting, all fantastic! 5 stars
12/07/03 Stacy It's the best cultural movie I have ever seen 5 stars
12/06/03 vp go see it for your self, its one of the best i've seen this year 5 stars
12/06/03 jawsboy One of the best films of the year. Great acting, battles, cinematography, story. Go Cruise! 4 stars
12/06/03 benice very boring. people actually left during the film 1 stars
12/06/03 Noel Great Movie But Makes Me Wonder if I could be a Samurai 5 stars
12/06/03 kentkid An amazing movie, best one i've seen all year. 5 stars
12/06/03 john so so, trite ... bland 3 stars
12/05/03 Pete Well, i actually think it was okay. 4 stars
12/05/03 rsanchez You know where this is going from the get go, but it still sucks you in and never lets up. 5 stars
12/05/03 Brian incredible film 5 stars
12/04/03 Ray I think its very good, but not Oscar-good 5 stars
12/02/03 aseelye Good movie, but felt slow at times. 4 stars
12/01/03 t-d One of the years best 5 stars
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  05-Dec-2003 (R)
  DVD: 04-May-2004



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