THE BLIND SWORDSMAN: ZATOICHI

"OK"

THE BLIND SWORDSMAN: ZATOICHI Review


The master Japanese filmmaker Takeshi Kitano made his reputation in the United States with his violent, whisper-to-a-scream gangster films like "Sonatine," "Fireworks" and "Brother." His most dedicated fans also know about his softer side, shown in warm, almost sentimental works such as "A Scene at the Sea," "Kids Return," "Kikujiro" and the extraordinary "Dolls," which has yet to secure a distributor here.

None of this prepares us for "The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi." Even if you've seen some of the classic 1960s-era Japanese films (many of which are available on DVD) about a blind masseuse and accomplished swordsman, you're at a disadvantage.

Based loosely on the novels by Kan Shimozawa as well as the original films, "The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi" begins normally enough. The rock-steady, stoic actor Kitano (known in an acting capacity as "Beat" Takeshi) appears as the bleach-blond title character, eyes glued shut, head cocked to one side as if to listen to the world. He's taunted by a band of would-be robbers and he vanquishes them with very little effort, barely registering a hint of an expression.

But as the film rolls along, it starts to move with a quirky pulse. For one thing, a handful of workers in a field begin to make rhythmic beats with their clanging tools, not unlike the Broadway sensation "Stomp!"

For another thing, Kitano's version of Zatoichi is no longer the reluctant warrior who gets drawn into battle only out of necessity. This Zatoichi is more than willing to kick a little behind if he's in the mood. For the fight scenes, Kitano apparently did not bother to send his actors to swordfighting school as Quentin Tarantino did with "Kill Bill." Instead, he employs some (deliberately?) terrible CGI effects to illustrate his severed heads and pierced torsos.

But the strangest thing of all comes during the finale. And, no, it's not an escalated bloody battle with the fate of the world at stake; it's a full-fledged musical number!

Like Jacques Tati, the only other world filmmaker to which he can be appropriately compared, Kitano seems to have grown tired of his trademark screen persona, the humorless gangster, and has deliberately tried to undermine it with this new film. At first, I found myself disappointed with "The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi," but it grows on you if you let it.

"The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi" shows a bolder directorial style as well. Kitano has loosened up, using stronger color schemes and relying less on the shock value of his editing. It's almost as if Kitano learned a thing or two during "Brother," his foray into American filmmaking three years ago. Could he be sending a message to Hollywood, letting them know that he's ready to play nice? Or is he just thumbing his nose at everyone?

With his deadpan mug, it's difficult to tell, but who cares when we're having this much fun.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 116 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 6th September 2003

Box Office USA: $0.6M

Distributed by: Miramax Films

Production compaines: Office Kitano, Saito Entertainment, Tokyo FM Broadcasting Company, Bandai Visual Company (JAPAN)

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
Fresh: 106 Rotten: 17

IMDB: 7.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Zatôichi, as Hattori, der Leibwächter, as Tante O-Ume, as Shinkichi, as Geisha O-Sei, Yûko Daike as Geisha O-Kinu, as Hattoris Frau, as Ginzo, as Ogi, as Kneipenbesitzer

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Trumbo Movie Review

Trumbo Movie Review

An entertaining film about sobering true events, this is the story of notorious screenwriter Dalton...

Goosebumps Movie Review

Goosebumps Movie Review

Mixing the action, comedy and horror from novelist R.L. Stein's books into a family-friendly package,...

Dad's Army Movie Review

Dad's Army Movie Review

The beloved 1970s British sit-com gets the big screen treatment, although there's been very little...

Spotlight Movie Review

Spotlight Movie Review

This film demonstrates that you don't need guns to make an exciting thriller. Based on...

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi Movie Review

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi Movie Review

Not the subtlest director working in Hollywood, Michael Bay brings his surging machismo to this...

Dirty Grandpa Movie Review

Dirty Grandpa Movie Review

There's nothing clever about this deliberately rude and vulgar comedy, but certain audiences will find...

The Big Short Movie Review

The Big Short Movie Review

Smart and snappy, this comedy is one of the scariest films of the year, using...

Advertisement
The 5th Wave Movie Review

The 5th Wave Movie Review

Also based on the first in a trilogy of post-apocalyptic teen novels, this thriller feels...

Ride Along 2 Movie Review

Ride Along 2 Movie Review

Ice Cube and Kevin Hart reteam for a sequel no one really asked for, following...

Room Movie Review

Room Movie Review

One of the most extraordinary films of the year, this drama cleverly weaves in events...

Creed Movie Review

Creed Movie Review

While this film is basically Rocky VII, it's also much more than that, and perhaps...

A Perfect Day Movie Review

A Perfect Day Movie Review

An irreverent comedy in the style of the original M.A.S.H., this wartime romp takes an...

Partisan Movie Review

Partisan Movie Review

With his feature debut, young Australian filmmaker Ariel Kleiman tells a creepy story about a...

The Revenant Movie Review

The Revenant Movie Review

A wrenching saga of survival and revenge, Alejandro G. Inarritu's new epic is just as...

The Hateful Eight Movie Review

The Hateful Eight Movie Review

Quentin Tarantino is a filmmaker who simply can't be ignored, especially when he lobs a...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.