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Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo
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by Brian McKay

"Slightly disappointing, but still a worthwhile pairing"
4 stars

Reprising his role of Yojimbo ("the bodyguard") from the Akira Kurosawa films, Toshiro Mifune considerably livens up one of the most famous ZATOICHI installments, saving it from uneven pacing, a fairly convoluted plot, and surprisingly few action sequences.

When Zatoichi (Shintaro Katsu) returns to a village he visited three years prior, he is caught up in the middle of a rivalry between two gangs who are led by an at-odds father and son. The father has been hoarding stolen gold from the Shogun's treasury and hiding it somewhere in the village, and the son wants to get his grubby hands on it. After becoming indebted to the father for springing him out of jail, Zatoichi goes to work for him as a bodyguard. But the son has his own bodyguard on the payroll, a drunkard lout and ruthless mercenary called Sassa, but who is better known by his moniker of Yojimbo.

Naturally, the two begin as adversaries, before forming a kind of strange fellowship and an uneasy alliance to find out where the gold is and take it for themselves. But of course, each has their own agenda beneath this common goal, as does everyone else involved. Unfortunately, these agendas within agendas make for an occasionally convoluted script and tend to bog down the pacing from time to time. On the bright side, though, the exchanges between Yojimbo and Zatoichi are consistently amusing, and Yojimbo seems to take an especially perverse pleasure in playing tricks on the blind Zatoichi. Nevertheless, the older Mifune seems a little less caustic and rough around the edges than the previous incarnations of his character, and the dialouge just isn't quite as crisp or biting as in Kurosawa's films.

Still, any reprisal of the Yojimbo character is a welcome one, even if the pairing of these two cinematic legends didn't quite produce as much chemistry as hoped for. If anything, the film mostly served to fuel my nostalgia for YOJIMBO and SANJURO, rather than satiate it.

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originally posted: 02/16/04 14:56:42
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  17-Jul-1970 (NR)
  DVD: 26-Aug-2003

  N/A (12)

  17-Jul-1970 (M)

Directed by
  Kihachi Okamoto

Written by
  Kihachi Okamoto
  Kan Shimozawa

  Shintarô Katsu
  Toshirô Mifune

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