Sunday, 10 November 2013
DVD REVIEW: ZATOICHI (2003)
This is one of those samurai movies where you don't know which period it's set in until the appearance of an artifact or a European in costume. In this case it's a gun which places it sometime in the later 19th century. Not that it makes any difference in the slightest. It's also an update of a long-running series about Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman. Here he's played by Beat Takeshi who is capably directed by Takeshi Kitano and also his alter ego.
And it's all good gory violent fun. Lost of action and gallons of cgi blood spatter and some cgi wounds. It's also got a plot, or at least several characters in search of one. Zatoichi, whose name is rarely mentioned, has taken on the guise of a wandering masseur and arrives at a small town ruled by rival gangs. Oh, the opening scene has him despatching a bunch of people who've hunting him. Just to get the viewer warmed up for what's to come. He's taken in by a kindly lady of uncertain age and promptly goes gambling, something he's good at, where he befriends the lady's feckless nephew aka the comedy relief.
There are three other players of significance in this drama. There's the ronin who, needing money to buy medicine for his ill wife, accepts a job as bodyguard to a gang leader. He isn't a bad person as such but is completely ruthless in accomplishing what he is paid to do and we just know that this will bring him into contact with our ageing blind hero. More sympathetic are the two homicidal geishas. Actually they are sister and brother who are tracking down those who slaughtered their family when they were children. The boy has adopted female guise and, while growing up, went with men -who clearly knew what and how old he was- to earn money. I suspect it's this transgressive subplot which earned the film the 18 rating rather than the stylised violence and bloodshed which is always fast and furious and never lingered over.
I much mention the final sequence which is completely at odds with everything that went before. It is a massive and hugely enjoyable percussion-led dance sequence by a famous Japanese tap dance troupe plus the few surviving main characters. Zatoichi, however, is back on the road.
The cover art is very much in the style of graphic novelist Frank Miller though, as there is no credit on the box, it may not be him.
All in all, a highly enjoyable film.