Zatoichi (2003)

Genres - Action  |   Sub-Genres - Martial Arts, Samurai Film  |   Release Date - Jul 23, 2004 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 111 min.  |   Countries - Japan   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Tom Vick

Beat Takeshi Kitano's Zatôichi is an artfully crowd-pleasing riff on the samurai action film. Zatôichi , the beloved hero of a long-running series of genre flicks (which still play regularly on American television), is the perfect match for the impishly violent screen persona Kitano has developed over the course of his film career in films like Fireworks and Brother. With his eyes closed and sporting a knowing smile, he dispatches baddie after baddie in a spray of digitized blood. Kitano the director is fully aware that he's dealing in pure pulp and he revels in it, injecting genre conventions with the visceral, yet stylized, violence his fans have come to expect. As an actor, he clearly relishes the role of Zatôichi, who roams the country posing as a blind masseur, but who is, in reality, the most dangerous swordsman in the land. Even better, he tops the whole thing off with a tap dancing curtain call involving the entire cast that nods to the joyful exuberance of Bollywood and ends the film on an irresistibly upbeat note. A pop-culture creation, Zatôichi, as played in the original films by Shintaro Katsu, has become a mythic figure almost on a par with characters from ancient legend. With this vastly entertaining addition to the series, Kitano proves himself to be just the right man to carry on the tradition.