"...that dance at the end? Awesome."
Director: Takeshi Kitano
Writer: Takeshi Kitano (screenplay), Kan Shimozawa (novels)
Cast: Takeshi Kitano, Tadanobu Asano, Yui Natsukawa, Michiyo Ookusu, Gadarukanaru Taka, Yuuko Daike, Daigor Tachibana, Ittoku Kishibe, Saburo Ishikura, Akira Emoto
Running Time: 116 min.
Plot: Blind Zatoichi makes his living by gambling and giving massages. But behind his humble facade, Zatoichi is a master swordsman, gifted with lightning-fast draw and strokes of breathtaking precision. Zatoichi wanders into a town run by sinister gangs and a powerful samurai. He's destined for violent showdowns when he stumbles on two beautiful geishas avenging their parents' murder... Duels, wit and a touch of zen! Cult anti-hero Zatoichi is back in a sword-fighting adventure written, directed and starring Takeshi Kitano.
EQUINOX21'S REVIEW: I'm very pleased to say that Zatoichi did not let me down. I was afraid that not having any previous knowledge about the franchise and seeing a Kitano movie that didn't involve yakuza vs. cops would make it a less enjoyable experience for me. But fear not, loyal readers, Zatoichi delivers on the goods.
Even though this movie takes place in or around the 18th century, Kitano manages to work in the organized criminal element to the story. There are 3 criminal bosses vying for power in a town, and their underlings' loyalties are constantly tested and often change. They make their money through running gambling houses, extortion of local merchants, and all the other usual ways that criminals have been making their money for hundreds of years. When one of the bosses starts taking over, a woman (who Zatoichi had previously helped out) gets in their way. He takes it upon himself to help her and some other friends they meet along the way.
Well, if that's not the worst plot description of all time, I don't know what is. But, like many Kitano films, it's virtually impossible to actually EXPLAIN the plot without going into pages of detail. Suffice it to say, it was enjoyable. There was enough sword fighting action to keep everyone happy. The most confusing things were the random bursts of violence (in which Zatoichi would be surrounded by a dozen swordsmen and be forced to kill them all) and the random flashbacks. But by the end, it ends up all making sense and you are able to enjoy it for what it is.
The worst element of the movie was the distracting CGI blood effects. It just didn't look real (not that I'd know what a real sword wound looks like, but I can pretty much guarantee that it wouldn't look like it did in this movie), but it got the point across and wasn't completely distracting.
I did enjoy Zatoichi and it really did feel like a regular Kitano movie (albeit, set about 300 years before his other ones). But I have to say that I hope he doesn't try to start the franchise back up with himself in the title role, because I want to see him do other kinds of movies and not just one type over and over. Not a bad flick to check out, but not Kitano's best. And that dance at the end? Awesome.
EQUINOX21'S RATING: 8/10