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Japan 2003
Directed by
Takeshi Kitano
116 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4.5 stars

Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman

Although perhaps disappointing fans of the pure, off-beat signature Takeshi style, this cult director's take on a icon of 1960s and '70s (26 films in all) Japanese pulp cinema known as chambara, the blind masseur and master swordsman Zatôichi, is exquisitely-crafted crowd-pleasing entertainment that still shows masterful invention and control.

Takeshi plays Zatôichi, an itinerant who arrives in a small rural town run by a gang of mobsters led by Ginzo (Ittoke Kishibe, who previous played a yakuza boss in Takeshi's Violent Cop (1989) and his samurai bodyguard Hattori (Tadanobu Asano). His path also crosses that of Okinu and Osei, a pair of beautiful sisters who have murdered one of Ginzo's associates.

Most Westerner's will be familiar with at least some of Kurosawa's comparable samurai films that are set more or less in the same period and although Zatôichi is by no means a lesser affair, it has a decidedly more contemporary, purely cinematic feel to it with the use of flashbacks, jump-cut editing and some stunning imagery as well as a wonderful Stomp-style tap dance finale.




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