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Zatoichi More at IMDbPro »Zatôichi (original title)

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kitanos zatoichi

8/10
Author: FSfilmblog from United Kingdom
21 November 2010

Zatoichi is another big screen outing for the popular Japanese fictional character the blind swordsman. The character started life out on the small screen before becoming a big screen attraction. The last film that was made about Zatoichi was in 1989 and this is a successful remake for today's audience. (A big box office smash hit in its own country).

The film is directed, written, edited and stars probably Japans most famous face Takeshi Kitano. Famed in his own country first and foremost as a comedian, though he has started to develop a body of work which gives him a more credible career in films as a director and movie star.

He takes the lead role as Zatoichi (in his usual deadpan way) and from the opening scenes we can see how the tone of the film is set. There's a delicious, dark and deftly touches of humour within the film which contrasts well with the limbs and blood splatting across the screen. It is in keeping in tune with his previous works, as most of his films are played with a smidgen of dark humour with tons of on-screen violence but that's what gives this film an offbeat charm.

The plot of the film is about a town that's gripped with fear when a warring gang bullies the citizens for money. Set in 19th century Japan the films opens with our hero being engaged by a group of swordsmen with the intent to kill him. Unfortunately for the group they underestimate Zatoichi and he dispatches them with ease. His path takes him to the town where he comes across one the towns folk whom he helps home. She offers him a place to rest for the night and in reply for her kindness he gives her a massage (he poses as a masseur). Relaxed and de-stressed she explains the how towns current plight and hardship rest solely with the unforgiving and uncompromising gang, Ginzo.

The story is very reminiscent to a classic western where a drifter wanders into a troubled town and turns over the local mob and restores some sort of balance and happiness. It may well be a predictable tale but its done with flair and aplomb. The only criticism I would have is that the back story of the Geisha girls. Mid point through the film it flashes back to how they had to coped and it was unnecessary and I for one wanted to get back to more limbs and blood splattering. The point of them avenging the death of their loved ones is enough motive for us to establish their reasoning. Another let down is the master less ronin who joins up with the gang and his climatic fight with Zatoichi. Theses are just minor flaws in an otherwise brilliant quirky and offbeat samurai movie.

The choreography is handled very well, it has none of the wire work (a la Kill Bill) that you may have expected but it doesn't really need it as the swordplay is done to a high degree of realism. CGI effects is used for the blood and it tends to spray across the screen in an unrealistic way which sort of softens the shock of limbs and other bodily mutilations. It is an enjoyable fable with tons of violence with a huge slab of dark comedic moments. It offers nothing too original in the way of story telling but it is done in a very entertaining and highly stylized fashion. Oh and if you were wondering if Hollywood are going to remake it or bring Zatoichi to the mass market, they've already tried it in 1989 with a film called Blind Fury (starring Rutger Hauer). I wouldn't bother with that one, stick to this one.

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Different

8/10
Author: tiger86-2 from Bulgaria
23 August 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a nice movie. Perfectly directed, wonderfully acted... The story is interesting enough. The fights are great. Don't expect Hollywood-like fight scenes. All the fights here are short and quick, Zatoichi's opponents die after the first strike with the sword. There is BLOOD. Now, if you are not a blood-thirsty viewer this movie would still please you since it is not centered on the blood and fights. There are also some funny moments although despite what IMDb.com says this movie is hardly a comedy.

But...

Well... This is NOT a recreation of the character portrayed by Shintaro Katsu. Kitano's Zatoichi is completely different.

There will be SPOILERS! ---- Well, at first, Katsu had a great sense of humor. Really. Kitano lacks it. Not that it is a bad thing but if you expect to see the same character you will be disappointed. Second, Katsu's Zatoichi was very proud, he became a swordsman because he did not want to look inferior to the seeing people. Kitano's character was humble.

MAJOR SPOILER HERE! DON'T READ IT OF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE MOVIE!!! The "old" Zatoichi was really blind. He hated his blindness and did everything possible to prove he is equal or even better than the seeing people. In the old movie the blinds were despised by the seeing. However Kitano's character decided to blind himself so that he can hear the world better. That is what makes him different. ----

There are no more spoilers. That is it. Go and see the movie. Just don't expect anything like the old ones.

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Action and comedy in feudal Japan

7/10
Author: Tweekums from United Kingdom
18 November 2009

I must admit that I'm not really familiar with the samurai genre so can't say how it compared to similar films however just looking at it as an action film I really enjoyed it; it had plenty of great action, several nice comic scenes and characters the viewer can care about.

Beat Takeshi plays the eponymous Zatoichi, a blind masseur who is also a master swordsman. He moves into a village that is being oppressed by a local gangster. Here befriends some locals and a couple of geisha who aren't quite what they appear to be. Into the mix is thrown a samurai who has taken a job with the gangster to pay for medicine his wife needs.

The opening scene where Zatoichi is confronted by a group of gangsters shows how the film will continue with both action as he fights them off and slapstick comedy where one of the gangsters accidentally cuts one of his comrades when he draws his sword. The blood spray from sword cuts seems exaggerated but not to an excessive level.

Takeshi is great in the title role and is ably supported by a good cast including Tadanobu Asano who was great as the samurai and Gadarukanaru Taka as Zatoichi's somewhat humorous friend.

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Remember my name: FAME!

7/10
Author: grandmastersik from Finland
8 May 2009

Normally I don't make the effort to comment on titles with so many "reviews" on them already, but I've just finished watching this one and it put me on a high.

Beat Takeshi's back and he's not as a cop! This time round he instead opts to take on the persona of Japanese folklore/film myth character, Zatoichi - a wandering blind swordsman who fights for good and kicks a lot of butt doing it. In this particular installment, written, directed, edited, starred in, etc. by Takeshi, Zatoichi comes across a small town with warring clans... which I bet surprised nobody.

What did make this film different however, was the excellent ronin played by Asano and the two Geisha "girls" out for blood. All characters work really well and the result (Hollywood action producers take note)is a story which pulls the viewer into the action, justifying fully each and ever bloody stroke of a sword.

Yeah, okay, so I had some problems with the totally unnecessary CGI blood/gore/whatever (man, Lone Wolf... flicks aren't ever appreciated enough!), but the main flaw of this feature was the ridiculous plug for some theatre troupe giving it some seriously gay STOMP! style nonsense. Truly pointless. Worse: this final scene mars the film enough for it to come down from an 8 to a 6.

6? Nah, I enjoyed it more than that - and so will you.

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An interesting reappearance of the Japanese James Bond Zatoichi in a classic gang movie

7/10
Author: jedo_team from Netherlands
2 October 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The plot is not too complicated. Zaitochi, a blind masseur who is also an excellent swordsman, comes to a city ran by the local mafia. To the same city comes a couple consisting of a sick woman and a depressed Ronin, also an excellent swordsman who is looking for work. The bitter ronin quickly finds work as a mafia bodyguard. It all builds up to a rather surprising ending, particularly for a Zaitochi fan.

The plot is simple but well build. Zaitochi comes to town and hears a story after a story told by those who have suffered at the hands of the local mafia boss. An exception to the orderly build would be flashbacks that feel a little out of place at times. There is a good amount of well placed jokes and even whole scenes devoted to jokes to give the movie a colorful flavor.

The characters are very macho, as characteristic for many Manga action characters. Everyone's true strength and skill is hidden and everyone waits until the last moment and then shows it off.

It's hard to judge the Japanese dialog if you don't speak the language and one would be quick to blame the English subtitles (which were quite bad), but sometimes one could draw no other conclusion other than something really corny or stupid was just said. However, many Japanese movies concentrate on the story and the artistic side, rather than the dialog so it's understandable. "Artistic" is plenty in this movie from the use of music to the dancing.

The action itself is a combination of good swordsmanship and some of the worst special effects I've ever seen in a movie. The first Star Wars would probably be ranked higher when it comes to special effects. Wounds and blood have all been (badly) drawn with the PC. And this is an important issue considering that the movie is an action-movie.

The camera work is quite solid. The acting is done by the Eastern actors who are known even in the West, with Takeshi Kitano playing Zatoichi (as well as directing and writing).

Zatoichi can be recommended to anyone (except for those who don't like violence), whether you are a western blood-thirsty teenager, a Japanese middle-class citizen or just Zatoichi fan.

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Extremely interesting

6/10
Author: lastliberal from United States
23 October 2005

The film starred and was written and directed by Takeshi Kitano. I like Japanese films, especially one about samurai. They are my opera. This film was enjoyable, with a captivating story of good and evil, even with the addition of cartoonish blood, but it was prejudice that made it even more interesting. Prejudice about the blind, about male and female roles and appearances, and even who the evil ones were. Only the blind man could truly see. The ending was a pure thrill and something not seen widely in Japenese movies - a song and dance routine that combined traditional Kabuki theater clog-dancing with "the latest African-American tap style.

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Crouching Tiger, Bollywood ending?

Author: The Movie Man from United Kingdom
15 May 2005

With 'Hero' and the 'House of flying Daggers' getting all the plaudits and doing all the business in Asian Extreme rental I thought you should know about this cracking little Samurai tear up also out this year. Japans favourite son, come comedian, turned actor/director in 'Beat' Tikashi is the man behind the camera and if any of you have seen any of his previous work will know it's certainly entertaining. As much as John Woo and the likes of Zang Yimho get the gong nominations it's 'Beat' that has the cool Tarrantino following.

Tikano Tikashi is always the star in his own movies although is always a minimalist when it comes to dialect, yet again preferring to play the strong silent type, this time using blindness as his reason. This is not like his previous, deliberately violent pieces like 'Brother' and the disappointing 'Violent Cop' but more in the mould of 'Boiling Point', where weak characters draw strength and comedy from the all seeing sage.

'Zatoichi' is a Japanese character made famous by actor Shikano Koutso from a series of cult Asian films stretching over 25 years. Kitano gives his own twist on the famous swordsman with the bleached blonde crew cut and loss of vision.

The Plot

It's ancient Japan where a local village is being terrorised by local gangsters who have just upped the protection money and intimidation. Then blind man 'Zatoichi' (Tikashi) comes to town with blonde bleached hair and razor sharp reflexes like his hidden Samurai blade, only shown to those who challenge. With no work and not in a hurry he befriends a local girl where he cuts wood and does odd jobs for a roof over his head and enough money for the odd wager.

Meanwhile a local and mighty Ronin blade, Hattori (Tadanoubu Asano) is looking for work and offers his services as body guard to the local crime boss, who's now facing a rival cartel looking to movie in on his action. But the gang fights are upsetting the villagers and when they interrupt Zotoichi's gambling they just picked a fight with the wrong guy.

When two girls come into town pretending to be Geishas but armed with exceptional fighting skills and vengeance, also against the marauding 'Gingzo Gang', so team up with the blind man to kick their ass out of town.

THE DIRECTOR Tikano Tikashi is a legend in Japan and therefore pretty much gets free range to express himself in his work. His venture into US cross over cinema with 'Brother' after a string of Samurai themed domestic movies didn't really break the States and so he's once again reverted to hat he knows best.

After hearing good things about Beat I watched three of his films so far and had been slightly disappointed in truth. But when 'Brother' and this came along my opinion changed and now I'm hooked into his next project with anticipation.

His Ronin movies always follow the same themes of pulling gaggle of unoffensive oppressed people together to fight back against the bad guys with Beat doing all the killing. What I like with Zotoichi is that he adds unexpected up to date western elements in a surreal way like twentieth century pistols and a bizarre 'Bollywood'/tap dancing sequence ending. If you want something different from the usual Asian Extreme then this is it.

THE RESULT

This is great fun and not just a sword slashing slice em up as just about anything could happen when you least expect it.There's some dancing farmers, real Laurel & Hardy and some subtle dry humour that's as sharp as any Samurai sword if your not just here for the blood sperting chaos.

The special effects and C.GI are surprisingly poor here, although I suspect that's part of the joke some how in Beats homage to Tarrantino at times.There's defiantly a bit of that wacky Monkey Magic seventies series going on here as well, which brings back great memories.

DVD EXTRAS The 'Making off' is subtitled like the film of course and features an in depth interview with this surprisingly charismatic director, of which the cast here are clearly in awe. There's a press conference and questions piece and lots of trailers and galleries to complete the package.

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When watching The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi, sit back relax, and expect the unexpected, because people sometimes are not who they appear to be

7/10
Author: Chris Scott (scott33@email.franklin.edu) from Ohio, USA
21 March 2005

Takeshi Kitano writes, directs and is the leading actor in The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi, a classic Japanese swordplay film. Zatoichi is a blind masseur, who travels from town to town as a vagabond. Zatoichi appearance is not a traditional look, he has blonde hair, not a typical hair color in 19th century Japan, and this is not your typical swordplay film, Zatoichi uses the classic fighting styles used in old Japan, quick and decisive fight scenes.

The theme in Zatoichi is, expected the unexpected. Rival gangs have a strangle hold on the residents of a small village, they hassle the villagers for protection money. The blind masseur wanders in town provides an act of kindness to a female farmer and in return has a place the rest his head.

Color was used as s motif to convey the theme. From the blonde hair of Kitano's character, or his bright red cane the carried made this character stand out from the soft earth tone colors used in the film. Even the geisha with her white face stood out, which is especially odd considering only one of them is wearing the white face. The use of color made a statement; "keep an eye out for these characters; they are not what they seem." The fighting sequences were good, better than the Hollywood film The Last Samurai, not as good as Japanese classics like Lady Snow Blood or the Lone Wolf and Cub series. If you're a swordplay movie fan, this might not be the movie for you. The fight sequences in the film are quick, decisive, and authentic. There are no ten minute sword fight scenes, these fight sequences are a few seconds, especially the buildup to the showdown with the hired samurai, Genosuke played by Tadanobu Asano. The fights are reminiscent of traditional showdowns that took place in the 19th century.

There is all amount of comic relief in the film, the gambling scenes and the village idiot brought light humor. The village idiot is a husky teenager or adult, he is dressed up in traditional war gear, and runs around like a bumbling fool. The loosing gambler which happens to be the farmer's nephew could never win until he meets the blind masseur. Together they form a winning pair at the dice table and become fast friends. There is a side story with two Geisha girls, with a hidden agenda, they are not who they seem.

The ending is unexpected with the dance routine at the end; it is reminiscent of a musical. I liked the movie. I could have done without the dancing. When watching The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi, sit back relax, and expect the unexpected, because people sometimes are not who they appear to be!

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Another Kitano movie, Meiji-era style

7/10
Author: heero_yuy2
29 January 2005

Well, what can i say? I'd expect another Takeshi Kitano silent-buff violent comedy style movie...and i was right. Same fun. Minus the paintings though. And of course, the old-style Japanese blood splats.

Takeshi tries to star now as a famous blind swordsman, walking strangely in a normal encounter on a certain old Japan town and slashes efforts on which he deemed needed revengeful assaults for two geishas, a bankrupt guy, an old vegetable vendor, and even the idiot guy running around the vendor's house, all because of a hidden syndicate maltreatment in the town. Added are the pleasant natural background locations, and a final 'celebration' modernizing a commemorative offer to the original series, with a dance choreography by a stick-tap music group resembling those who perform in a Canadian series Just For Laughs.

Another feel-good movie by Takeshi Kitano. Perfect for fans.

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The pinnacle of one's work

Author: Colin Hosten (Colin0001) from United Kingdom
19 November 2004

From the man that gave us HANA-BI, comes a sly tour de force. ZATOICHI melds as many influences as Beat Takeshi can throw into the script and at the screen. Its an intelligent film that gently follows the normal flow of the genre, but ends up with us laughing at the ending. Because by then, some of us will realize that he's laughing too. Good sub-plots that incorporate the lengths to which some will go to seek revenge. The gentle village setting is also a point at which gambling and gang wars jostle for room. The film is deeply satisfying. One wonders if Beat Takeshi consciously set out to make a film that all might enjoy? I did, and maybe more so than any other film this year. Tender, gentle, funny, intelligent, stylistically violent - it has all of these.

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