Movie Review of The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi (Japan 2003)

Language - Japanese
Genre - Action, Comedy, Drama
**ing - Takeshi Kitano, Tadanobu Asano and Yui Natsukawa
Release - 2003

The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi by Takeshi KitanoTakeshi Kitano ('Beat' Takeshi) is arguably the most prolific Japanese actor and film-maker of recent era. Popular for his 'deadpan' humor, reflected both in his acting and directorial style, Kitano's movies have defined a genre of it's own. Though most of his early works revolved around cops and Yakuza gangster themes, he has shown great proficiency in handling other subjects with ease as well. In 2003, Takeshi Kitano presented the revival of Zatoichi, the classic fictional Samurai legend of television series and Samurai films with The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi.

   Starring, Written, Edited and Directed by Takeshi Kitano, The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi became the biggest commercial success of Kitano's illustrious career. The movie was also a major critical success winning numerous awards including the Audience Award for Best Film and the Silver Lion for Best Director at the 2003 Venice Film Festival.

'Beat' Takeshi or Takeshi Kitano as Zatoichi'Beat' Takeshi stars as the legendary 'blind' masseur and Samurai with a weakness for dice, and senses mastered to beat even the most skilled swordsman. He is also a gentlemen who treats women with respect, and likes to mingle with people, despite being a loner traveling from village to village handing out justice wherever needed. It begins with Zatoichi helping an elderly woman (Michiyo Ookusu) carry the vegetables home and in return being offered a place to stay. 

The blind Sowrdsman:Zatoichi movie stillAs the story unfolds, Zatoichi realizes the hardships borne by the villagers due to warring gangs who keep on increasing the protection money.  With such a cliched premise, Zatoichi could've easily been a slice-and-dice Samurai flick but Takeshi Kitano expertly adds in a revenge saga as well in the form of two geishas who saw their rich family getting slaughtered by bandits when they were young, and have been seeking vengeance since then.

Takeshi Kitano and Tdanobu Asano in ZatoichiJapanese heartthrob Tadanobu Asano stars as a Ronin (master-less Samurai) Hattori Genosuke, the perfect counterfoil to Zatoichi, with a story of his own. Offering his services as a "bodyguard" to anyone offering the money, including the gang Zatoichi is out to destroy, Hattori and Zatoichi naturally find themselves in warring paths. The final showdown between Zatoichi and Hattori might come across as anti-climactic to some, but is respectable for it's authenticity and realism, true for all fight sequences despite the rich splashes. 

The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi starring Takeshi Kitano
The movie is satisfyingly complex and entertaining due to the richness of it's characters, attention to even the most subtle details and the interesting plot elements such as the subtle and poignant love story between Hattori and his ailing wife, the histrionics of the old woman's nephew with a gambling addiction, and the sister and a cross dressing brother as the vengeful geisha siblings. The villains are also convincing and are more that sketch-board characters. There are also elements of suspense masterfully infused into the natural progression of events in the film.

The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi is distinctively Kitano who infuses new life into the classic legend, with laudable efforts both behind and in-front of the camera,  and is largely aimed at the mainstream with it's complex and interesting screenplay, rich fight sequences and comical undertone throughout the running time that makes it a supremely charming  and  entertaining affair.