Writer/Director: Takeshi Kitano
Running time: 116 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 18
UK Release date: 19th March 2004
Watched on Sky+ Sunday 19th June 2011.
PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.
I had not heard anything about this Japanese film before I spotted it in the TV listings. It looked kind of interesting and so I decided to give it a watch. I wasn’t wrong, a very interesting blend of martial arts, comedy and even dance are put together in this tale of a blind masseur/swordsman. He travels the land putting right all the injustices he finds, we are never told exactly why he does this, but many are grateful for his help.
Our masseur, Zatôichi, arrives in a small town where local gangs have made life very hard for the local residents. He stays with a farmer, Aunt Oume, whose nephew, Shinkichi, has a gambling problem. Zatôichi decides to help out and at the same time look into the gang problem. One of the gang leaders hires a Ronin, a Samurai mercenary, called Hattori Genosuke as a bodyguard. Whilst in town, Zatôichi meets two geisha’s who have a connection with some of the gang leaders. Their parents were murdered by them ten years ago and, again, Zatôichi decides to help them out. With all these problems in the town there is eventually going to be a big showdown and the question is, who will come out on top? Of course I’m not going to tell you here or I’ll have Samurai knocking on my door.
Shot in very muted colours it’s not the most appealing film to watch, but it does have some good moments. I like the way the sounds of tools are moulded into the music and there are some pretty funny moments too. Good performances all round, particularly from; Takeshi Kitano as Zatôichi, Tadanobu Asano as Hattori Genosuke, Gadarukanaru Taka as Shinkichi, Daigorô Tachibana as Geisha Seitaro 'Osei' Naruto, Yûko Daike as Geisha Okinu Naruto and Michiyo Ôkusu as Aunt Oume.
Quite a lot of the story is told in flashback and, at times, this made it quite hard to follow the narrative. I guess this has a lot to do with it being in a foreign language with subtitles. The fight scenes are all very well done, but are quite graphic, so it’s not one for the squeamish. It all ends with a big dance number that the old-school Hollywood musical directors would have been proud of. As I said, an interesting film, but one you have to watch. I quite enjoyed it but found it a bit hard to follow at times, even so… Recommended.
My Score: 7.1/10
IMDb Page: http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0363226/
RT Page: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1217686-zatoichi/
Official Site (Japanese): http://office-kitano.co.jp/zatoichi/