Zatoichi is a 2003 Samurai action/comedy/drama written, starring and directed by Takeshi Kitano. Kitano, probably best known in the west for his game show Takeshi’s Castle and appearance in Battle Royale plays the title role of Zatoichi, a blind Samurai who comes to the aid of a town being ravaged by gang war. In the town, Zatoichi befriends a local farmer and helps two Geisha to enact revenge on the gang leaders who killed their family.
The opening scene, which is darkly comic and features copious amounts of blood letting, sets the tone for the rest of the film. The film contains the kind of cartoon like yet realistic blood splattering that Quentin Tarantino used to such great effect in Kill Bill. It is always over the top and unnecessary but very entertaining. The film also features some quite surreal comic moments which includes the occasional appearance of a local fat man running around a house in his underwear, holding a spear and screaming as though he is going into battle. The fight scenes, as well as being wonderfully well choreographed are also often humorous.
So far, so good. For me the film falls down when the comedy and violence are left behind in favour of the rival gangs’ story. I couldn’t get into it and found it overlong and tedious. I wasn’t invested enough in any of the characters outside of Zatoichi and the film suffers when he isn’t on screen. I thought that parts of the plot were overly complex and the twist about who was really in charge was obvious.
Overall I’d say that I enjoyed the film but only up to a point. I’d watch a sequel but I’d like more Zatoichi and less of the faltering side story. The fights look great and the film is very funny but it was too long and often boring.