A/V Room









Zatôichi (18)

Review by: Graeme Kay | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Making of documentary; Takeshi Kitano interview; Theatrical trailer; Stills and poster gallery; Cast and crew filmographies; Weblink.

BRILLIANTLY imaginative treatment of the Zatoichi legend by actor/writer/director Beat Takeshi.

Zatoichi (Takeshi) is a blind man wandering the country alone, and making a living from his skills as a masseur and a gambler.

But he has another more lethal talent: he is a master Samurai swordsman and more than a match for anyone, even with his disability.

When Zatoichi wanders into a small, rural town, he finds that the townspeople are being terrorised by the ruthless Ginzo gang, who are championed by the mighty Samurai ronin, Hattori.

It is not long before Zatoichi and Hattori are locked in a gory battle as the former, along with his allies - a pair of geisha girls looking to avenge the death of their parents - attempts to liberate the people from their oppressors.

As you would expect, this film is bathed in blood: every sword thrust is accompanied by an arterial spurt and the crunch of metal against bone.

But to Takeshi's credit, he has tried, pretty successfully actually, to create action sequences that transcend the usual martial art cliches.

In addition, Takeshi, who turns in a very convincing personal performance, that captures the vulnerability as well as the strength of the hero, takes the time to fill in the histories of the various protagonists, meaning that we have greater empathy for the characters.

Again this adds a dimension not always found in this genre.

Given Takeshi's background as a comedian, it's no surprise to find that there is a good deal of humor here, as he borrows from the tradition of Japanese circus, to create some first rate slapstick.

But the icing on the cake is a totally unexpected finale, that again pushes the envelope.

If there is any criticism, it is only that the film, at just under two hours, is a little too long.

Ten minutes could quite easily have been lopped off without the story suffering.

But don't let that put you off, this is well worth viewing.

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