Yet here it is, Red Sun, a samurai starring spaghetti western. Charles Bronson is part of a gang of thieves who hold up a train that happens to be transporting the Japanese Ambassador to Washington, along with his samurai guards. Bronson is betrayed by his partner, and narrowly escapes death. His partner also makes off with an ancestral sword, intended as a gift to the US President and kills one of the samurai guards while he's at it.
Thus commences a reluctant teamup between Toshiru, the remaining samurai, and Charles, the cowboy who wants revenge - and his share of the stolen gold. The power balance between the pair is fascinating, first belonging to Toshiru, then shifting as Charles regains his guns and the duo step further into the murky territory that he knows so well. Toshiru's character is surprisingly complex, as the plotline starts out drawing him with western cliches of Japanese culture. As the movie progresses though, we see his pride, his desperation to recapture the nobility that is being stripped from his caste back home, and the fervent hope that he can do his ancestors proud when opportunities to live up to his heritage are being taken away in the new era.
Bronson's character is a familiar rogue, the kind of likeable villain that we've seen in a hundred other westerns. The familiar cliches are in place, the friendly whorehouse, the wide vistas, the road journey across the west. There are so many cliched cultural depictions across this movie, from the commanche Indians to the Mexicans, to everyone in between that for all the uniqueness of the samurai angle, the movie never really strays from its roots, never becomes unfamiliar.
The final scenes of the group caught in a brutal attack by the Commanches in a field of long, overgrown tangled grass are brilliant, an action sequence that borrows heavily from the Kurosawa school - an obvious choice when your movie features Kurosawa's favourite actor. The ending is well played though obvious if you've ever watched any Japanese cinema, or many of the westerns that borrow from Japanese tradition (e.g. The Magnificent Seven, a remake of The Seven Samurai).
I highly recommend this film, though if you can't stand genre flicks like Spaghetti Westerns than you probably won't get much from this.