Beat Takeshi Kitano, the master of Japanese cinema -- arguably the most well known Japanese director in America -- both stars in and directs this entertaining ode to the classic series of the same name. Zatoichi is an excellent combination of old samurai flicks and modern action movies, a memorable film that may someday become a classic.
Zatoichi, the blind samurai, roams the land pretending to be a mere masseur. He wanders into a town that is constantly under threat from the Yakuza, and is inevitably drawn into a revenge coup involving two siblings' attempts to kill those who murdered the rest of their family. What happens next (naturally) is his relentless killing of anyone who steps in his way. From watching this movie, Zatoichi is one of the most bad ass characters I have ever seen.
Another conclusion which can be drawn from watching Zatoichi is that Kitano has mastered his craft. If it was not obvious from his previous works, like Kikujiro and Hanabe, it certainly is now! Every scene is beautifully directed, making this film deserve its place in the Zatoichi lineage. The swordfights are superbly choreographed, adding even more to the legend of the blind swordsman. I cannot express enough how well Kitano plays his role in this film.
Not necessarily a comedy title, Zatoichi is sprinkled with moments of hilarity, ranging from subtle to outright slapstick. It also contains rather random moments, like the tap dancing curtain call at the end, which involves the entire cast.
However, not everything is good. Zatoichi desperately needs a better score. I have heard more adept music from old video games. Also, computer generated blood really doesn't mix with a live-action movie. Sometimes I could not help but laugh at how terrible it looked, especially when a CG sword poked through a bandit at the beginning.
Miramax did a decent job on the disc. The video has some aliasing issues that are incredibly noticeable, but other than that, there are no huge problems for the most part. The audio is good. Zatoichi's English dubbing is horrible, but not much can really be expected for a live-action movie. I did not notice any spelling, drop-outs, or other issues with the subtitles.
Zatoichi is an awesome film, perfect for any movie fan's library. For those who have not yet purchased your Christmas gifts, it will be perfect for anyone you know who enjoys Asian cinema. This is easily one of the best movies I have seen all year.