Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Film Review: Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman (2003)

Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman (Review)
Japan/2003
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

Zatoichi finds himself in a small village - a village caught in a gang war - where he befriends a friendly farmer and her gambling nephew; along the way, he also agrees to help two geisha in their quest for revenge.

Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman drops you right into the action. It's a very traditional yet immensely interesting samurai story; it's a samurai film that blends its drama and action very well. Zatoichi shows up at a time of violence and oppression for the townspeople, and slowly helps as he bonds with those he meets - whether it be the geisha seeking revenge for their family's slaughter or the kind farmer forced to pay excessive amounts for protection. The action sequences are superb and often intense, especially the samurai showdowns. Most of the characters have background stories told through flashbacks, which I enjoyed; however, Zatoichi stays mysterious as a traveling masseur, which I also enjoyed. The ending of this film was great; it was a bit odd, but I felt it added more culture (for lack of a better word) to the film, in turn, capturing the legend of Zatoichi; it's also a humorous, non-traditional ending effectively changing what you'd expect.

The acting was fantastic from the entire cast. Beat Takeshi, or Takeshi Kitano if you'd like, is amazing as the mysterious samurai, Zatoichi; a very smooth and believable performance, rather than over-the-top or overdramatic. The music in the film is great, especially the ending, which is paired with a great tap-dance sequence. The costumes and settings are great, really capturing the era. I also enjoyed most the visual effects. The splashing computer blood gave the film a comic book/manga vibe; however, the gore effects were bad, and often distracting. Fortunately, the gore is limited to a few scenes, so it wasn't a significant issue. I own the Miramax Blu-ray of the film, and it looks and sounds great; definitely worth owning, if you can find a copy.

Overall, Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman is a very entertaining samurai tale; the performances, the music, the action all create an immersive and authentic atmosphere. Highly recommended for fans of the genre.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Strong Violence and Blood, Some Gore.

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