Movie Poster
Takeshi Kitano
Takeshi Kitano, Tadanobu Asano, Michiyo Okusa, Yui Natsukawa, Guadalcanal Taka
116 min.


Takeshi Kitano's latest is an update (new installment?) of the Blind Swordsman series from Japan. Kitano wrote, directed, edited and played the title character. He is frequently on top of his game, most consistently in the acting department, but there are also frequent lapses.

While appreciably bloodier than the previous generations of Zatoichi, the computer imaged sword wounds (a grantedly necessary evil) are somewhat off-putting. The entire subplot with the brother and sister geishas avenging their family honor is certainly consistent with the series, but far less interesting than the assorted adventures of Zatoichi himself. There are two dance sequences which, audaciously, each get more screen time than any single action sequence.

But those action sequences. Those are good. Once you get a hang of the CG the fights are consistently shocking and amusing. I sat the whole movie behind an eight year-old (unobstructed view of the screen) who attended with his mother. A woman in the film commits hari-kiri, hands (and parts thereof) are severed, there is a whole sub-plot involving prostitution, there are more spurts of blood (those Japanese appear to have abnormally high blood-pressure. Probably evolved it solely for the purpose of samurai humor) than there are lines of dialogue. The kid seemed to enjoy it.

While it doesn't rank up to Kitano's best work (Violent Cop, Hana-Bi, Scene at the Sea), or arguably with the best Zatoichi films, it is certainly both funnier and bloodier than either.

I saw it at a screening at the Minneapolis/St.Paul International Film Festival*, it will see wide (limited) release later this year. I'll be seeing it again.

* Support the MSPIFF.

Pat Jackson