The film is an origin-story offshoot of the original Japanese television series of the same name. The film involves a wandering ronin (Tetsuro Tamba) who finds himself involved with two other samurai (Isamu Nagato and Mikijiro Hira) who are hired to execute a band of peasants who have kidnapped the daughter of a corrupt magistrate.
- Tetsuro Tamba as Sakon Shiba
- Isamu Nagato as Kyojuro Sakura
- Mikijiro Hira as Einosuke Kikyo
- Yoshiko Kayama as Oyasu
- Kyoko Aoi as Omitsu
- Hisashi Igawa as the Magistrate
"Three Outlaw Samurai is a supremely confident big-screen debut, whose surface simplicity masks a scathing vision of society lurking beneath. In some ways, it recalls Kurosawa's samurai narratives, with its tale of renegade rōnin who come to the aid of the dispossessed. But Gosha's personal obsessions are all over the film, particularly in his depiction of the loss of honor through blind loyalty (and its liberating opposite, the regaining of honor by betrayal), and in the sharp contrast he makes between the refined, comforting worlds of power and social duty and the wild, almost animalistic existence of those who choose freedom. And unlike Kurosawa, whose characters tend to be classically drawn and endlessly layered, Gosha often works in broad strokes: his characters are archetypes, which he then deconstructs and plays off one another. A samurai can go from fighting alongside a group to fighting against them in one brief shot, as in Three Outlaw Samurai. These characters may be simple, but Gosha’s real interest is in the portrait of society he is creating—and that is anything but."
"[I]t's an impressively well-told story with interesting characters and a surprise in every scene. Gosha and his writers Keiichi Abe and Eizaburo Shiba work clever games with the standard samurai archetypes: all are present, yet they refuse to accept their traditional roles. Gosha's thriller soon lets us know that it is not going to be yet another simplistic morality play about honor and loyalty....[Gosha] makes Three Outlaw Samurai a thorough critique of authoritarian society and the traditional honor code of the samurai. In Gosha's view the oppressive forces are money, power and class. The magistrate subscribes to no code except his own convenience and prestige. The only honor to be found in is therefore the opposition of unjust authority."