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Overall Rating

Awesome: 22.22%
Worth A Look43.06%
Average: 19.44%
Pretty Bad: 2.78%
Total Crap: 12.5%

7 reviews, 30 user ratings

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Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi, The
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by EricDSnider

"A blind guy who kills people. I don't see how this could go wrong."
4 stars

To watch "Zatoichi" (aka "The Blind Swordsman") is to understand a little better what Quentin Tarantino was doing in his "Kill Bill" movies. Here's the blood, the swords, the unexpected humor, the themes of honor and loyalty, oh, and more blood.

You can see why Tarantino likes this sort of movie so much. "Zatoichi" is fun, in an outrageous, violent sort of way, written and directed by Beat Takeshi, one of Japan's foremost pop-cultural icons. He does it all -- comedy, action, drama, TV, movies -- but his yakuza films are the best. His willingness to playfully combine styles makes this one, in particular, a treat.

Takeshi plays the title role, an expert swordsman who happens to be blind. He works as a masseur, wandering from village to village, often relying on the kindness of strangers such as the old Aunt O-Ume (Michiyo Ookusu), with whom he boards for a few days, and viewing the world with whimsical, Zen-like detachment.

Meanwhile, the residents of a particular village are plagued with organized crime, the "protection" money now being collected daily rather than monthly. Here another expert swordsman named Hattori (Tadanobu Asano) is seeking work as a bodyguard for the gangs' bosses, desperate to earn money to save his ailing wife.

Zatoichi encounters two geisha girls named O-Kinu (Yuuko Daike) and O-Sei (Daigoro Tachibana), the latter of whom is actually a boy, but never mind. Their parents were killed by the gangs, and revenge is needed. Zatoichi is not the sort to go actively looking for trouble, not even to settle a score ... but when trouble finds him, he can deal with it quite capably, thank you.

It is amusing how little there is of what you would call "fighting" in this film. Most of the combat is over very quickly; "killing" would be a better word for it. The blood, which flows freely, is computer-generated and looks fake -- apparently on purpose, to avoid grossing out the audience TOO much. And it is often spilled in entertaining fashion, as with the recurring joke where swordsmen accidentally cut each other while sheathing and unsheathing their weapons.

Takeshi has a fondness for music and rhythm, evidenced by the little bursts of syncopation that find their way into the action, and by the "Stomp"-like dance number -- yes, a dance number -- that ends the film. The substance of "Zatoichi" is no greater than that of any standard sword-and-revenge flick. But its style is zesty and surprising, and that more than compensates for any ordinariness in its storyline.

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originally posted: 09/25/04 12:59:17
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 CineVegas Film Festival. For more in the 2004 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sydney Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sydney Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Brisbane Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Brisbane Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Tribeca Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Tribeca Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

6/09/14 Richard Brandt Almost defiles memory of the entire series but recovers from/with a last-minute stumble. 4 stars
1/23/09 Andrew M The first comment on this list is unbelievably crass and moronic. 1 stars
12/17/06 jovana that would be the "male" geisha... brlp...brpl... 5 stars
10/17/06 Ryan_A Couldn't get into it. Most likely the CGI blood... 3 stars
2/16/06 Reklc Amazing! 5 stars
10/10/05 Agent Sands One of Takeshi's best. Equal in extremes of gore and hilarity. 5 stars
9/08/05 Klondo funny and explosive and weird - the ending needs a rewrite 4 stars
7/19/05 Samurai Guy Stunk 2 stars
7/05/05 George Koebke Zatoichi belongs to Shintaro Katsu alone. This version is a total disparagement.. 2 stars
6/16/05 K. Sear The plot is pretty fragmented but the film is still enjoyable. 4 stars
5/09/05 JFK good movie, bad ending 4 stars
4/14/05 The Sorrow A must-have for the DVD collection 5 stars
4/07/05 matt beat takeshi's movies are as screwed up as his face after that motorcycle accident 1 stars
2/22/05 ALDO this is total this to princess blade....Now thats a good JAP film 1 stars
1/22/05 the Grinch Takeshi is a good actor, mediocre director, horrible editor. See Shogun Assasin instead 3 stars
8/13/04 Octo Ojeda A jewel, go and enjoy this movie. ***** 5 stars
8/04/04 pns brilliantly made movie, yeah the tap dancing ending was odd, still i loved it 5 stars
7/28/04 Rob Saw at AFFD and loved it. 5 stars
7/23/04 Jon Whats with the broadway tapdance ending? lol, good movie otherwise... 4 stars
7/14/04 Graham Jeez, I usually like Erik, but this review was way off-base. Mature, inventive, witty film 5 stars
7/09/04 Nikolai Since Freddy and Mr. Christ are finally dead Bonesetter is my true God ! 5 stars
7/01/04 Ingo An absolute must see - terriffic editing, score, players etc 5 stars
6/03/04 Takeshis Castle BEAT IS GOD. 5 stars
5/27/04 Dmg Terrible review, excellent movie, a must see 5 stars
4/14/04 Daveman The lack of originality is made up for by it's brilliant narrative and style. 4 stars
4/12/04 Wind it rocked! lots of fun. 5 stars
4/02/04 Eden The reviewer failed to review. He's Blind to theme. This is not Mr. Takeshi's fault. 4 stars
3/23/04 John O Bad Reviewer - And 'Last Samura'i "Awesome"? Laughable 5 stars
3/14/04 Gortum Filum If David Lynch, Ozu, Kurosawa and Miike made a movie together this would be it 5 stars
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  23-Jul-2004 (R)
  DVD: 09-Nov-2004



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