If one has to pinpoint why Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai (Unrated, 207 mins., 1954) has sparked directors as diverse as Arthur Penn, Sam Peckinpah, Sergio Leone, and John Woo (as well as remakes, from The Magnificent Seven to the animé Samurai 7), it might be the sequence where warrior Kambei (Takashi Shimura) poses as a monk to rescue a kidnapped child from a thief. Kurosawa intercuts long, medium, and close-up shots of a crowd watching with shots of Kambei tricking, then dispatching, the thief, who falls in slow motion. As film scholar Stephen Prince notes on a commentary, in this moment of bravura editing and startling mix of film speeds, the director writes ''the textbook on modern movie violence.'' Samurai is loaded with thrilling filmmaking—from its character-driven setup to the glorious chaos of the rain-soaked climax, a dizzying blur of men, horses, mud, and death. This Criterion update includes a splendid new transfer, new English subtitles (in one scene, ''brats'' has become the more pungent ''piss pants''), a making-of doc, and a two-hour interview with Kurosawa. In a word: kick-ass.