Directed by Takeshi Kitano
The blind swordsman Zatoichi gets the Takeshi Kitano treatment in Kitano's uneven but nevertheless impressive take on the timeless classic.
Zatoichi, a blind masseur and swordsman, wanders into a small town in the grips of a Yakuza gang war whose residents live in constant fear of their thugish overlords. Zatoichi tries to stay out of it, but as is always the case, he ends up coming to the defense of the townspeople in a series of eye popping (and in one case, eye gouging) brawls.
As is often the case with Kitano's films, "" suffers from extremely uneven direction, resulting in a pace that jerks around wildly. Kitano's direction is usually anything but tight, so the choppy pacing of "Zatoichi" is to be expected although it doesn't make it any less frustrating to the viewer.
"Zatoichi" features well chopreographed swordfights with over the top arterial spray (where blood spurts out like a geyser after a sword blow--think 'Kill Bill') which, let's admit it, is sort of played out. In Kitano's defense, however, "Zatoichi" was made in 2003 so he was still somewhat on the cusp of the movement (if you want to call it that) and his particular brand of the special effect is very well done. As in other Kitano films, the violence, although gory, often plays for laughs and is underscored by a noticeably cartoonish element.
"Zatoichi" is not always perfect but it is always original which is what I've come to expect from Takeshi Kitano's films. Indeed, Kitano takes the timeless blind swordsman and makes him something all his own (quite literally, since Kitano himself plays the swordsman…). The icing on the cake is the elaborate dance number that concludes "Zatoichi," an anachronistic yet utterly rousing ensemble number that is vintage Kitano. Why's it in the movie? Because he felt like putting it there, period. Kitano's utter lack of pretensions, as well as his efforts to in ject whatever he does with genuine freshness make him movies, even his bad ones, constantly interesting.