Shakespeare and Kurosaka are two names that spring to mind when it comes to adapting classic storylines in order to fit a variety of different periods and genres. Shakespeare has had countless of his comedies and tragedies turned into teen romantic comedies for example. Kurosaka’s Yojimbo has been done twice (so far) once as the legendary unauthorised sequel to The Good The Bad And The Ugly, and the other time as the 1996 film Last Man Standing.
In 1932, a lone drifter on his way to Mexico stays in the almost ghost town of Jericho, while there he becomes embroiled in a civil war between two criminal gangs, an Irish gang and a faction of the Illinois Mob. As he weaves between the two, he becomes involved with a mob boss’s paramour and then brings the unstable duopoly to breaking point.
I personally enjoy the look of the town of Jericho. It has this end of the frontier/ wild-west town feel to it. But as so few people live there, it might not be worth the effort to upgrade it to the 20th century. It also gives the place a neglected feel that, makes me wonder, with a place so run down and sparsely populated why the two gangs care so much? However, the film doesn’t look as worn down as the town of Jericho and despite the prominent use of dusty beige, the film does utilise a lot of interesting shots and an impressive score by the great Ry Cooder.
John Smith, played by Bruce Willis, is a fascinating character. He plays solitaire in empty bars and can gun-down mobsters with nary a problem. Smith is simply another iteration of The Man With No Name yet Willis brings a unique quality to the archetype. Watching him taken down the gangs with well-executed gunplay is certainly enjoyable to watch. The residents of Jericho themselves are filled with interesting characters and actors respectively, the film doesn’t give too much away, and that helps build up the aura, they also employ some big names into their ranks, such as Christopher Walken plays enforcer Hickey and Bruce Dern playing the corrupt Sheriff Galt who would do anything to keep the uneasy peace.
Last Man Standing goes beyond its Yojimbo again storyline, to be an indulging blend of action and style, A cool tale of gangsters with some wild west trappings for good measure. A testament to the idea that good ideas don’t have to be 100% original but innovative. But for those who want to see action star, Bruce Willis in his element would find the small town of Jericho to be a great place to visit.
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