Stars: Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe, Timothy Spall, Koyuki, Billy Connolly
They say: It’s the 1860s. Once-courageous Captain Algren (the Cruiser) is drinking himself stupid trying to forget all the redskins he’s slaughtered, when a much-hated superior seeks his assistance in taking on sword-swinging samurai in Japan. “For $500 a month I’ll kill whoever you want,” scowls our Tom, “but keep one thing in mind: I’d happily kill you for free.” One ship-ride and a skirmish later and he’s prisoner of consummate killer Katsumoto (Watanabe), but during months of captivity begins to realise these fellas in dresses don’t deserve to be clipped.
We say: Dances With Wolves in Japan – and there’s nothing wrong with that. Ignore the OTT bleating of the Hans Zimmer score (he may as well scream, “Feel sad/happy/excited now!”) and the over-serious isn’t-the-East-astonishing stuff, and concentrate instead on Cruise’s skull-cracking swordplay. Watanabe too gives a superb performance as Tom’s Eastern enemy/ally, while the exploration of honour and sacrifice is underscored by a Bush-bashing, anti-capitalist message. All this, plus the peculiar sight of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet’s Timothy Spall as a posh British translator, and gorgeous unknown actress Koyuki as Tom’s tasty totty, whose husband the pint-sized combatant despatches with a particularly stunning stab. The Wild Bunch heads East. Bloody. Good.
Best bit: Either Cruise and Ken’s slicin’, dicin’ double-up against a squad of ninja assassins, or Billy Connolly’s Irish(!) sergeant being stabbed in the chest. Och, begorra etc, that smarts!