To call Ken Takakura an icon is almost an understatement. He is not only one of the few stars left from the heyday of the studio era, but he has for decades embodied the sort of ideal Japanese male (stoic, self-sacrificing, unstoppable in a fight) who is vanishingly rare in real life. (Clint Eastwood has a similar image in the United States, though as Dirty Harry his values were more social Darwinian than traditionally American.)

No wonder that for the lugubrious road movie/melodrama “Anata e (Dearest),” Takakura’s 205th film, producers were able to round up an all-star cast that includes “Beat” Takeshi Kitano, the comedian, actor and director who last worked with Takakura in the 1985 drama “Yasha (Demon),” and Tadanobu Asano, the one-time indie stalwart whose most recent credit is “Battleship.” In fact, it’s hard to imagine any Japanese actor turning down a chance to work with the man nicknamed Ken-chan, since it’s the local show-business equivalent of walking in the footsteps of God.

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