Zatoichi tries to unrest the mob rule over a small village all while the gang leader's bodyguard is actually the Yojimbo, secretly taking the gang down from the inside. Will the two heroes realize in time that they are on the same side?
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 »
Star Shintaro Katsu sits in the director's chair for this psychedelic and unremittingly bleak entry in the Zatoichi series, which is unlike any other in its grind-house grimness. A tale of ... See full summary »
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.
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 ... See full summary »
With a price on his head, Ichi seeks tranquillity in a favorite village. Since his last visit, it has fallen prey to Boss Masagoro, the son of a merchant rumored to have stolen gold from the shogunate. The boss has hired Yojimbo as his hard-drinking enforcer, but Yojimbo is both a spy for the shogunate, trying to find the gold, and in love with the merchant's unwilling mistress, Umeno. Ichi hires on as the merchant's masseur and buys Umeno's freedom with his employer's own money. This embarrasses Yojimbo who withdraws from a pact with Ichi to stir up trouble between father and son and their gangs. As the two sides fight, Ichi finds the gold and sets up a final set of confrontations. Written by
In making my way through the Zatoichi films, I was both trepidatious and excited to arrive at 'Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo'. On the one hand I was worried, once we get into the crossover films, that's a sign they're starting to run out of ideas. On the other hand, how can you go wrong with a film that unites Katsu and Mifune? It's also directed by Kihachi Okamoto (The Sword of Doom, Kill!), the only real name director the series has had besides Misumi. And besides, after nineteen instalments there has yet to be one I thought was less than great; the series hasn't shown any sign of slowing down yet.
Alas, though, I think this is the first Zatoichi film I thought was merely 'good'.
The movie sees Zatoichi returning to his home town, a town that looks very similar to the one in Yojimbo, and here he meets the titular bodyguard. For a while at the beginning I was trying to figure out if this was in fact supposed to be the town from Yojimbo, if the old man in this movie was supposed to be the same old man from that film, and just what the hell Mifune's yojimbo was doing still there considering the ending of that film. Mifune's character also seemed quite different from his character in that film, despite some surface similarities; here he plays kind of a drunken bastard. I soon realized, the best way to approach this film is, it's a different town, and Mifune plays a different character: it's just another Zatoichi adventure, with no connection to Kurosawa's film save a few nods here and there.
Really, this is what I was hoping for. Those less familiar with Zatoichi may have been hoping for a true crossover that takes place as much in the Yojimbo universe as the Zatoichi universe, but in the context of the Zatoichi series, this wouldn't feel right. But even just as a regular Zatoichi flick, I was still slightly disappointed in this effort. At nearly two hours this is, I believe, the longest Zatoichi film, but it just lacks the storytelling economy that makes the other entries so enjoyable; this one seems over-complicated and uncompelling by comparison.
Further, there were other little things that bothered me about this movie. Katsu seemed less competent than usual struggling with normal stairs, and apparently unable to gauge the distance of a sound... This film continues the trend of the last few entries towards a darker side of the character, but Zatoichi's aspiration to becoming a 'villain', and simultaneous contempt towards 'spies' just seemed kind of random. And as much as I love Mifune, his performance here really didn't impress me.
There are good points to the film though. It's one of the more visually stunning entries in the Zatoichi series, with some beautiful sequences. And the finale is quite satisfying (even if it borrows a bit too blatantly from Treasure of the Sierra Madre). It's a solid film, but considering the talent involved, it could have been something really special, and instead it gets my vote as the weakest entry in the series so far.
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