BEING UNEMPLOYED SUCKS. You're poor, you're hungry, and you hate yourself. It's enough to drive one to suicide. Or at least the threat of suicide.
Takashi Miike's Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai is a remake of the 1962 classic Harakiri, and it's a tense portrait of near-suicidal desperation. In the 1600s, unemployed samurai would solicit money or jobs by performing suicide bluffs—they'd show up at a castle and ask the lord for the honor of committing ritual suicide in the courtyard. The lord, not wanting a scene on his hands, would either offer the samurai money or a job so as to not have his yard suddenly sullied with fresh, hand-sliced ronin.
Hara-Kiri is at its best when it resembles a game of chicken: Two desperate samurai bluff about how they wish to kill themselves, but then a noble house actually accepts their offer. When the movie is about who's going to blink first, it succeeds wonderfully. (A tense scene involving a certain bamboo object is reminiscent of Miike's horrifying exercise in intimate pain, Audition.) While the middle section drags (it's a flashback that fleshes out the motivations of the two main characters, and it boils down to "they're poor and desperate"), the ending is such an effective gut-punch that it makes up for the bloated middle.
One unavoidable problem with the movie, though, is the 3D: It's distracting and wholly unnecessary, and several times throughout the film I took the dark glasses off so I could see the vibrant colors and beautiful sets better, albeit with a slight blur. If you're going to see samurai play chicken, see them do it in 2D.