After Zatoichi learns of his sensei's murder he uncovers a horrible conspiracy involving the local government and crime family.After Zatoichi learns of his sensei's murder he uncovers a horrible conspiracy involving the local government and crime family.After Zatoichi learns of his sensei's murder he uncovers a horrible conspiracy involving the local government and crime family.
One thing that makes this film stand out is its brutal, dark and gloomy atmosphere. Brothels usually serve as colorful backdrops in many traditional Japanese movies but this one here is different. It shows us how women and even girls are forced into prostitution, insulted, beaten up and starved in pitiless ways. Especially the ruthless intendant and his mob as well as the female owner of the brothel are shown as exploitative maniacs who treat the women worse than animals. In one scene, Zatoichi has to give the local intendant a massage while one hears how the owner of the brothel beats up a virgin prostitute who was reluctant to sleep with the intendant in the next room. She doesn't even try to hide what she is doing in order to intimidate the other prostitutes. Another element that adds to the atmosphere is the fact that the citizens are constantly scared. A local dice dealer who is initially friendly towards Zatoichi is forced to trick him during a game and then forced to steal the blind masseur's cane or else his young teenage daughter would end up being a prostitute. The viewers discover the darkest places of the town such as the filthy brothel, poorly equipped dwellings, shady bars and restaurants as well as many dark alleys as the film is mostly taking place at night which only adds to the sinister tone. Rarely have the antagonists been as ruthless as in this film of the franchise. Even the ronin who duels Zatoichi turns out to be a man without honor as he kills innocent men, constantly tries to provoke Zatoichi and even assaults him with a horse instead of opting for a fair duel. Two honorable mentions go out to the fitting absence of slapstick humor and the gloomy soundtrack that also recalls elements of the western genre.
There aren't many flaws in what might be one of the franchise's very best films. Obviously, the story is quite predictable and the settings are quite similar to some we have seen in many other movies of the franchise. The sword fights are also quite similar to what was offered in previous films. Instead of focusing on flashy choreographies, even the sword fights are brief, brutal and pitiless like the story itself.
Zatoichi's Revenge is a highlight of the franchise because of its brutal story, gloomy atmosphere and despicable antagonists. The film goes away from the previous three or four films that had more humorous elements and might be the most serious entry in the franchise. Any collector or follower of the franchise should watch this film and even those who aren't familiar with the franchise can watch this intense film without any regrets. It's not the sword fights that make this film stand out but its uniquely sinister tone that strikes a chord with the viewers.
- Mar 4, 2018