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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 Dr Nick

"Samourai warriors and tap dancing?Hmmmm"
3 stars

Takeshi “Beat” Kitano is back, and this time he’s offering us something slightly different from what we’ve come to expect from the man. A samourai action film with enough oddities to keep most people entertained. Sword wielding samourai warriors, buckets of blood, transvestite geishas, general clownery and tap-dancing. All the things you’d want in a movie, right? Well, if Japanese gore and weirdness is your thing, this might just be the movie you’ve been waiting for.

Takeshi “Beat” Kitano is one of the better-known Japanese directors. With films like Sonatine, Violent Cop, Hana-Bi and Kikijuro he has developed quite a following around the world. 2000’s “Brother”, starring Omar Epps, even saw him trying to take on Hollywood, not completely unsuccessfully. But, Japanese films, set in Japan with Japanese actors, are what Kitano does best, and Zatoichi is as Japanese as they get.

The themes are the same as in most of his films. Corruption and gang warfare are still the main ingredients. But, this time feudal Japan is the setting. Cue loads and loads of samourai gangs terrorising the normal people, ready to chop up anyone trying to stop them. Luckily, Zatoichi is there to sort things out. Played by Kitano himself, Zatoichi is a blind man who makes his living gambling and giving massages. He wanders into a town where several violent samourai gangs are fighting for power. Zatoichi gets involved and has to fight to survive. “But, he’s blind!!!” I hear you saying. “How can a blind man defeat armies of samourai warriors?”. Well, well….Zatoichi is not your average blind man. With the sharpest sword imaginable hidden in his cane, he is capable of kicking some serious ass. And he does.

Ok, so it’s a departure from Kitano’s usual corrupt cop/yakuza gang warfare bloodbath, where Kitano’s character has to pay with his own life to set things straight. But, apart from the setting, not that much has changed. It still feels like pretty familiar territory. There’s the usual comic elements to make the gore easier to digest. There’s the village idiot, dreaming of becoming a samourai warrior, running around in circles screaming. Two geishas are out to avenge the murder of their parents ten years earlier. One of them is a transvestite, which makes for repeated attempts at hilarity. Maybe, I’m giving the film too much of a hard time. It really isn’t that bad. It’s just something about this type of humour that bugs me. People falling over, injuring themselves by just being stupid. Maybe it’s just me but I don’t find it very funny. What made it all worthwhile for me was the fight scenes, and when most of us go to see a samourai film, that’s what we want to see, right? And here they are pretty spectacular, with great camera work, great choreography and buckets of blood. So, no complaints there. And, the soundtrack is pretty cool, if not a bit too loud (even the smallest movements seem to give off extremely loud swishes and swooshes). In some shorter vignettes, all edited superbly, Kitano lets the surrounding make up the soundtrack. Spades hitting the ground makes up a great percussion piece, kids playing in puddles makes up another one. A big tap-dancing number finishes off the film and adds some much needed interest. And Kitano himself, he does what he always does, plays his part completely straight-faced, with no hint of any emotion. I’m not quite sure what I think of him. Either he’s a really good bad actor, or just a really bad actor. Most of the time he’s just annoying. But, his deadpan approach is meant to part of the charm of his films. Maybe I’ll get it one day.

Zatoichi’s been getting rave reviews everywhere, but it just didn’t appeal to me. Kitano’s style quickly gets tedious and I lost interest about halfway through. Fascinating enough, and nice to see something differently, but something I would recommend? Nah. Rent out Blind Fury instead. Now there’s a blind man who can kick some ass with style.

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originally posted: 04/14/04 03:25:44
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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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