I am a huge fan of the original Zatoichi movies, played by the late great Shintaro Katsu. Anyone who is familiar with his take on Zatoichi, will remember the wandering masseuse with a penchant for gambling, and cutting down hordes of opponents with his lightning fast cane sword. Katsu's Zatoichi was boisterous, funny, lonely but possessing a big heart, always willing to stand up for the little guy.
This movie is a very different take from the Zatoichi that most of us are familiar with. Shingo Katori plays him as a family man, with a wife, a home and community to go back to. He is still standing up for oppressed victims, still able to fight against incredible odds. The big difference there is a lack of humor or swagger, not as many fight scenes, mostly a depressing story. The plot is a bit confusing as times, whereas in the original series and movies, the story was simple and straightforward, with clear villains and victims, and a clear path to resolution of conflicts (by killing all of the guilty parties).
I have enjoyed the other Zatoichi films (2003 Takeshi Kitano's version, and the 2008 Ichi female rip-off) for they were similar to the old movies (at least in spirit) but I felt that this movie had taken the series into a more dramatic and serious path, much different than from the lighter and flashier type that most of us are used to and comfortable with. Do not watch this movie if you are expecting the same chanbara of the old Zatoichi films. But if you don't mind a more grown-up and realistic version, then give it a shot.
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