Zatoichi (2003)

Posted in Reviews by - January 02, 2021
Zatoichi (2003)

Takeshi Kitano’s singular, updated vision of one of Japan’s most iconic pop culture characters is an exhilarating watch, with tender moments juxtaposed with comedy and scenes of bloody violence. As writer, director and star, the idiosyncratic filmmaker replaces his trademark guns with a Samurai sword for the first time in his career, undergoing a bleach blond transformation to play the blind swordsman and part-time masseuse popularised by Shintaro Katsu for decades on Japanese television and film. Although this is far removed from the Yakuza bloodletting of his earlier films, Takeshi fans will still appreciate its unique sense of humour, embodied by a number of strange characters (notably Zatoichi’s gambling sidekick and an insane neighbour), and the film’s many irreverent detours (namely its percussive Stomp-like soundtrack and all-out dance finale, orchestrated by a Japanese dance group called ‘the Stripes’). It also offers a somewhat charming reflection on life during the late Edo period, only with a distinctly post-modern twist. Takeshi’s story is further evidence of this, centring around two geisha (one male) on the hunt for their parents’ killers who enlist the help of the blind swordsman. This is Zatoichi for a new era, and a remarkable demonstration of Takeshi Kitano’s many talents.

AKA: The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi; Takeshi Kitano’s Zatoichi.

This post was written by
Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a laptop in London, UK.

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