Now, before we start I want to say that this is not a great movie by any means. In fact, it starts out rather . . . well, OK I guess but not spectacular. But the sheer interest level of a western with THIS cast compels one to watch. And the nice thing is that, although RED SUN never becomes a classic Western, it DOES get better and better as it goes along. Thumbnail synopsis: a band of outlaws led by Link (Charles Bronson) holds up a train. On board happens to be the ambassador of the newly-opened-to-the-West Japan; this man is bringing a gift of a gilded ceremonial sword to the U.S. President. Before the train robbery is completed, however, Link's second-in-command Gauche (Alain Delon) double-crosses Link and blows up the train car Link is standing in; Gauche also makes off with the prized sword after killing one of the two samurai guarding the ambassador. Link is not killed, however, and is revived by the ambassador; who tells Link that he must help his samurai Kuroda (Toshiro Mifune) recover the sword in 7 days or else he'll have Kuroda cut Link's head off and the entire Japanese delegation will commit hari-kiri. Link and Kuroda set off on foot tracking the treacherous bandits while sparring with each other verbally and physically along the way. It's basically your "odd couple" thrown together by circumstance. After several deadly encounters, Link and Kuroda abduct Gauche's "girlfriend" Cristina (Ursula Andress) and propose to trade her for the gold and the sword.
Director Terence Young is probably most famous for directing a trio of James Bond films (DR. NO, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE and THUNDERBALL) as well as THE VALACHI PAPERS with Bronson and the rather abysmal BLOODLINES. Young's directing here is rather uneven; the bickering relationship between Bronson and Mifune as they travel through desert wastes can sometimes come off a little twee while at other times it works beautifully. Ditto in the form of one awkwardly-done scene alternating with a truly skillful one. Bronson is nowhere near as effective as he was in ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST but he is still rather charming and good fun. Mifune, however, is very impressive and his samurai commands the screen just as if he was in a Kurosawa film. Particularly in the fight scenes Mifune conducts himself beautifully with an impressive physical performance; he also provides the single most moving bit of acting in the film as he gives a speech explaining how his illustrious family have fought and died honourably for 400 years and the samurai way of life is slowly disappearing now that Japan has opened itself up to the West. Also there is nothing like seeing a sword-wielding Toshiro Mifune hacking his way through a band of outlaws or charging through attacking Comanches with sword a-flashing. Simply beautiful. Ursula Andress is suitably treacherous and rather badass in her role as basically the villain's moll; she gets her kit off which is also appreciated. Alain Delon seems to be having a good time as he gets to (very slightly) ham it up a little. Stir into this international stew noted film composer Maurice Jarre who did the score. Unfortunately for Jarre fans, this score is rather repetitive and not one of his best efforts. Another interesting aspects is filming the climax in a field of tall grass which surely must force the viewer to recall the waving grasses of ONIBABA.
For the simple novelty factor alone, RED SUN is worth watching. I mean, where else are you gonna find Bronson, Mifune AND Delon in the same movie together. And as long as you're not expecting a classic, this western is something every film fan will probably appreciate.