a samurai film...without sword fights, but still entertaining?!
now here's an interesting concept: what do get when you merge the guy who played Ogamai Itto in the Lone Wolf films, with the Zatoichi character played by that actor's real-life brother? why, you get Tomisaburo Wakayama playing a wicked priest with many similarities to Zatoichi, including his look and the general tone of the film. and that's just for starters, as this consistently engrossing film manages to pack in 3 hours of plot into 85 minutes...without ever seeming rushed, or unfocused. indeed, the plot and the performances are so good, they almost make u forget that the film features NO SWORDPLAY OR GUNFIGHTS (despite presence of both weapons in many scenes)! yup, that is correct. and i still gave it a whopping 8 out of 10. the damn thing is just so well constructed, with elements of comedy, drama, tragedy, romance, and yes, action...including kung fu type fights, and plenty of the red stuff on show. there even a scene with an unlucky rat that looked bloody real to me. gr8 cinematography in 2.35 widescreen, and a really unique score (which includes some Spaghetti western-ish touches) help polish the package even more. despite the general light tone of the film, & the lack of swordplay and nudity (just a brief shot of a woman's bare behind), make no mistake: this truly is a wicked priest, gambling, womanizing, cussing and brawling constantly...but with a nice sense of humor and the quintessential 'heart of gold'. i hear there are more films of this character (Shinkai), and i sure as hell would like to see 'em. and if Zatoichi's anything like this, then i must catch up on what i've been missing.
speaking of Zatoichi, Shinkai even has a scene as a (fake) masseur in the film!
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