The popular Japanese character comes to American screens for the first time in Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman, an action-drama about a blind man who kicks some serious ass.
Takeshi Kitano directs, writes and stars in the movie, playing the title character as he stumbles across a town that is being controlled by some nasty bad guys. At first they think he is nothing but an old blind man, but they soon learn otherwise as he begins to cut down their hoodlums with amazing speed and agility. A master of the quick sword, Zatoichi is all but unstoppable.
I might have really enjoyed this 2003 version of the character's exploits except I accidentally watched the 1989 Shintaro Katsu version a few weeks ago thinking that that movie was really this one. I wrote an entire review for that film before realizing I hadn't even seen the correct movie - but oh what a movie it was. Though slow at times, it still had plenty of cool action sequences and a good lead character.
Takeshi Kitano's 2003 version tells much of the same story, only it is simpler and a little easier to follow. Unfortunately, Kitano isn't nearly as convincing as Zatoichi and the action isn't even close to that of the 1989 version. For some reason, other critics fell in love with this movie, but it really isn't anything special. The blood is computerized, which just looks cheesy at times, and Kitano isn't nearly as convincing as Katsu's.
The Blind Swordsman is entertaining, but could and should have been a lot better. The last five minutes are especially bad and include a dance sequence of all things. With over twenty Zatoichi films on the market, plenty of them have to be better than this one, including the 1989 version of the same title.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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