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Overall Rating

Awesome: 22.22%
Worth A Look43.06%
Just Average: 19.44%
Pretty Crappy: 2.78%
Sucks: 12.5%

7 reviews, 30 user ratings

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Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi, The
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by Tony Hansen

"Japanese blind men - they'll slice open your chest AND rub your deltoids"
4 stars

If nothing else "Zatoichi" has taught me this: most of America’s blind people are stinking lazy. Yes, absolutely lazy. All of them. Take Ray Charles, for instance. Sure, he’s a brilliantly charismatic performer, but can this “blind” man skillfully and artfully dissect the limbs off of ten violent opponents leaving nothing but piles of gore and brutalized bodies. AND THEN, can Mr. Charles turn it down a notch and offer to anyone a luxuriant, and possibly erotic, shiatsu massage? He can’t. I’ve seen concert footage. He can’t do it. And I’ll bet that no more than 25% of our nation’s blind community can. Blind people disgust me.

Takeshi Kitano’s Zatoichi is the first time that I’ve seen a “Zatoichi” film and it is possibly the best “Zatoichi” film that I have ever seen. It really has it all – violent sword play, humorous sight gags, violent sword play, humorous sight gags, and, oh, there’s tap dancing too. That’s pretty much it. There is a story, a plot, connected to the film but it really is thrown in rather sloppily. Kitano never develops anything which is narrative-wise at all substantive, or in any fashion captivating and memorable. In typical samurai film style, a great injustice (in this case, murder) has been done to a family and a master ronin (in this case, (Beat) Takeshi Kitano) comes to the aid of the remaining family members as they demand revenge. But the film is too episodic, too in love with its own energy, to care at all with what actually happens to the characters. Kitano makes the choice to concern the film, primarily, with swordplay set piece after swordplay set piece -- each more delightfully bloody and entertaining than the last. Then, of course, there are also occasional bits of comic relief (relief from what, I have no idea) which, surprisingly, work quite well.

Together, these elements of action and comedy endow the film with a goofy charm. Ultimately, it’s effective film making because its unpretentious nature never allows the blood and guts to feel too important, too serious. Imagine a silly plotted film where every doltish, overbearing action scene takes the audience one step closer to something that is utterly doltish, overbearing, and self-important. That is not Zatoichi. That is every Arnold Schwarzenegger film. Zatoichi’s action scenes are bits of self-contained fun. They don’t really push anything important forward. There’s nothing that important to push. Kitano can get away with this, chiefly, because this is his gift. From the films I have seen, he is much more a visual stylist than a storyteller. Akira Kurosawa – he is not. Care – I do not. In my mind, there is nothing inherently wrong with a film maker who works to provoke the adrenal gland rather than the heart or the mind. As long as something gets stimulated, who cares?

Now, I don’t know how this film will play in the art theaters. Frankly, I don’t know if anyone will like this film. This is part of the problem with the Sundance film festival. When watching a Sundance film, you are watching a film along side a far over-the-top enthusiastic bunch of people who are hyper-sensitive to everything being presented to them. They want to enjoy the film passionately and you get forced into this mob which has a mind of its own. The audience makes the action seem cooler; the jokes seem funnier. You can physically feel the tenor of emotions in the theater. It’s a fun way to watch a film but it’s also dangerous for anyone writing a review. Is the film actually worthy of the applause and whooo-hooos? Upon further examination, is the film dopey fun or just dopey? I’ve decided to stick with my opinion.

Of course, all of this up till now is just scribbled meanderings. The real important question, though, the question on everyone’s mind which will keep everyone in a constant state of ponder for weeks after they see this film is this: how does Zatoichi compare with Blind Fury? Wow. That’s difficult. Let’s see. On the one hand you have Takeshi Kitano, international Japanese superstar. On the other hand you have the team of Philip (The Saint) Noyce and The Dutch Gary Busey, Rutger Hauer. Zatoichi has an ebullient show stopping end-of-the-film dance number; but Blind Fury has Randall “Tex” Cobb. Masseur vs. Vietnam vet. Japan vs. Australia/Holland/U.S.A. I’d have to say that it’s a photo finish.

In the end, Zatoichi is a good film because everything about it is gratuitous. The violence and the humor share this same characteristic. And, of course, it’s also a primer for the disabled. Every blind person should see this film. They need to learn to fight. With the ever growing threat of domestic terrorism, we need blind people who are good with swords.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8521&reviewer=421
originally posted: 01/17/04 05:31:33
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 CineVegas Film Festival. For more in the 2004 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sydney Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sydney Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Brisbane Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Brisbane Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Tribeca Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Tribeca Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

6/09/14 Richard Brandt Almost defiles memory of the entire series but recovers from/with a last-minute stumble. 4 stars
1/22/09 Andrew M The first comment on this list is unbelievably crass and moronic. 1 stars
12/17/06 jovana that would be the "male" geisha... brlp...brpl... 5 stars
10/16/06 Ryan_A Couldn't get into it. Most likely the CGI blood... 3 stars
2/15/06 Reklc Amazing! 5 stars
10/09/05 Agent Sands One of Takeshi's best. Equal in extremes of gore and hilarity. 5 stars
9/08/05 Klondo funny and explosive and weird - the ending needs a rewrite 4 stars
7/18/05 Samurai Guy Stunk 2 stars
7/04/05 George Koebke Zatoichi belongs to Shintaro Katsu alone. This version is a total disparagement.. 2 stars
6/16/05 K. Sear The plot is pretty fragmented but the film is still enjoyable. 4 stars
5/08/05 JFK good movie, bad ending 4 stars
4/14/05 The Sorrow A must-have for the DVD collection 5 stars
4/06/05 matt beat takeshi's movies are as screwed up as his face after that motorcycle accident 1 stars
2/22/05 ALDO this is total Crap....compare this to princess blade....Now thats a good JAP film 1 stars
1/21/05 the Grinch Takeshi is a good actor, mediocre director, horrible editor. See Shogun Assasin instead 3 stars
8/12/04 Octo Ojeda A jewel, go and enjoy this movie. ***** 5 stars
8/04/04 pns brilliantly made movie, yeah the tap dancing ending was odd, still i loved it 5 stars
7/27/04 Rob Saw at AFFD and loved it. 5 stars
7/22/04 Jon Whats with the broadway tapdance ending? lol, good movie otherwise... 4 stars
7/13/04 Graham Jeez, I usually like Erik, but this review was way off-base. Mature, inventive, witty film 5 stars
7/08/04 Nikolai Since Freddy and Mr. Christ are finally dead Bonesetter is my true God ! 5 stars
6/30/04 Ingo An absolute must see - terriffic editing, score, players etc 5 stars
6/02/04 Takeshis Castle BEAT IS GOD. 5 stars
5/26/04 Dmg Terrible review, excellent movie, a must see 5 stars
4/13/04 Daveman The lack of originality is made up for by it's brilliant narrative and style. 4 stars
4/11/04 Wind it rocked! lots of fun. 5 stars
4/02/04 Eden The reviewer failed to review. He's Blind to theme. This is not Mr. Takeshi's fault. 4 stars
3/22/04 John O Bad Reviewer - And 'Last Samura'i "Awesome"? Laughable 5 stars
3/13/04 Gortum Filum If David Lynch, Ozu, Kurosawa and Miike made a movie together this would be it 5 stars
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  23-Jul-2004 (R)
  DVD: 09-Nov-2004



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