The chambara, or samurai film, has much the same relationship to Japan as the Western does to the United States. Both are historical genres that allow artists in their respective countries of origin—or in other countries, in the case of the Italian “Spaghetti Western”—to create a rich body of modern folklore, explore issues pertaining to their national character and neuroses, and mine grand drama out of the clash between the individual and the community (or, in the case of the chambara, the clan.) Bringing together the swinging katanas and blazing six-shooters, Live by the Sword, Die by the Gun reveals the many shared affinities—and even shared plot elements—of two grand cinematic traditions born an ocean apart from one another. Squaring off certified classics from both, this is one climactic showdown where everybody wins.

In Theater