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After an artist is threatened by the yakuza into creating valuable but highly illegal pornography, the law aims to execute him. Zatoichi, having been honor bound to protect the man and his family, must now run against the law.
Cowritten by star Shintaro Katsu, this adventure pits Zatoichi against one of his most diabolical foes: a blind yakuza boss whose reign of terror and exploitation has made him nearly mythic... See full summary »
Zatoichi arrives in a town where a gambling house is kidnapping its poor, debt-ridden patrons. A rival establishment moves to pay those debts and free the peasants, but this house's seemingly altruistic boss is actually laying the groundwork for a ruthless money-grabbing scheme. The sixteenth Zatoichi film is the first from its star's own Katsu Productions, and is one of the series' most daring. Written by
A fine, if not brilliant entry in the long running series
Zatoichi The Outlaw was the first film made by its hero's (Shintaro Katsu) own production company, this is perhaps why this is a slightly lesser entry in the series, though it is by no means weak overall. It tells of our hero coming across two towns, rival bosses and a mysterious ronin helping the poor and from this set up spins a tale encompassing tragedy, violence and no little interest, all served up with lashings of the unshowy but inspired swordplay that is one of the series trademarks. It is a fairly predictable plot and it mounts in unsurprising fashion, but it zips along with style and is interesting stuff. The helpful ronin for example is a nobly inscrutable revolutionary character, upsetting the established order without being painted as a truly likable or heroic figure, Zatoichi himself makes one or two mistakes and causes harm by his actions, whilst the ruling system fuels the exploitation of the poor. Its a harsh world, with one or two more visceral than expected moments in the fighting, though things aren't as rousing as they could be. Shintaro Katsu turns in a typical bravura performance as Zatoichi, mixing wisdom, deadly skill and worldliness with a subtly sad sense of vulnerability, while solid work comes also from Rentarô Mikuni and an effectively baleful Kô Nishimura (later to appear as Katsu's superior "Snake" Magobei in the Hanzo trilogy) as the two main bosses in the film. There is also a good emotional turn from Yuko Hamada as a wronged woman. The film loses out through shaky pacing and a not so well constructed sequence of events, there is at least one slightly jarring time jump and the power of the plot becomes a little lost, meaning that when things heat up towards the end the film isn't as exciting as it could be, emotional impact is lost also. The action or scenes of Zatoichi using his ingenious skills are well handled by director Satsuo Yamamoto, though some of the gambling is less interesting and the film builds up in a workmanlike rather than really inspired way, without the lively characters or strong verve of some other installments. Still, I enjoyed this one, it has its flaws and isn't one of the best of the series but it still packs a sweetly satisfying dose of entertainment, a good story and decent doses of Zatoichi's trademark ingenious and quirky cool. Recommended for fans of the series, and a reasonable entry point, classy stuff though not a true great.
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