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.
It's one of the "Bruceploitation" films that were made to cash in on Bruce Lee after his death. The story follows Bruce Lee after he dies and ends up in Hell. Once there, he does the ... See full summary »
I'm a huge Zatoichi fan. I have been watching the series since I was a kid and own every film that came out on both VHS and later on DVD. Although I'm a hardcore fan I do enjoy different interpretations of the franchise like Kitano's 2003 remake and the Ayase Haruka version - Ichi which was not a rip off, by the way. but a spin off since it tells the story of Zatoichi's student, Ichi. The real rip off was Crimson Bat the blind sword-woman (1969) that was trying to cash in the popularity of the Zatoichi franchise at the time.
So okay I watched Shingo's verison of Zatoichi and it indeed different not in a good way. They strayed from the original spirit of the Zatoichi films and frankly I didn't like it. Shingo of SMAP is probably the least appropriate person to do Zatoichi. Shingo's Ichi is too clean shaven and too lanky and does not have the swagger of Zatoichi. Even his acting as a blind man is unconvincing and over done. Zatoichi is a rugged yakuza gambler but a member of a boy band.
You see, what made a Zatoichi flick , a great Zatoichi flick are three important elements 1) Flashy tightly woven sword play 2) Snarky humor and charisma from either Zatoichi himself or the supporting characters 3) A straight forward story about good vs evil with a clear resolution (bad guys die).
Certainly Zatoichi is all about the sword play right? The original had chuck full of it. Kitano's Zatoichi had some great sword fights (the final showdown between Ichi and the Ronin) with lots of CG blood. Even Ayase's Ichi also has some fantastic sword play as well.
Unfortunately Shingo's version falls short. As the first reviewer mentioned the fight scenes were not very good. Shingo's Zatoichi did not feel like a deadly blind iaido expert but a clumsy old man who can barely hold a sword. Both Katsu's (the original Ichi) and Kitano's Ichi feigned helplessness but can instantly switch to menacing if the situation called for it. In comparison, Shigo's Ichi, although younger, seem to be going senile. Instead of lighting fast sword strikes which is the signature of Zatoichi's fighting style, Shingo's Ichi seem to be just flailing around with his cain sword and the unfortunate bad guy just happen to be there. Honesty, I want to kick the fight choreographer in the face.
How about humor? Even the sober version of Kitano's Zatoichi had lots of humor in it supplied mostly by the supporting and colorful cast (Tap dancing farmers? Cross dressing Geishas? Come on!). Unfortunately Zatoichi the Last had none - in fact this is probably the most depressing Zatoichi I've watched.
Okay what about the plot? In one of the films of the original series, Zatoichi and the Doomed Man, Zatoichi first discovered the sea in his travels yet in this reiteration Zatoichi's hometown is a fishing village! The whole plot is somewhat confusing and disjointed. The way the stories and loose ends were resolved was not as satisfying as the original and even the newer remakes like Kitano's 2003 version.
All in all, if you are curious then I can't stop you but beware, this version of Zatoichi not only falls short but it falls off a very high cliff and breaks its neck on the sharp rocks below. If you want to watch a fairly modern version of Zatoichi I suggest Takeshi Kitano's Zatoichi which is closer to the source material. Or better yet do yourself a favor and watch the original.
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