Kitano "Beat" Takeshi has successfully walked that fine line of respecting the character defined by Shinataro Katsu's performance in numerous Zatoichi films, but bringing enough of himself to the role that he need not be judged only as a Katsu impersonator.
Shot on silver filmstock, it has the subdued colors of the original Zatoichi films. The characters are unusual & well defined, the bloodshed & slaughter choreographed for classic chambara or sword-film beauty. The animated bloods-spurts were not realistic & took some getting used to, but it was otherwise perfect.
Only the tacked-on "tap dance" sequence at the end of the tale leaps out of its world for the kind of mere campiness so many newer samurai films suffer from, & even that was awfully cute despite breaking the spell of the film.
There was a moment in the film -- when Ichi opened his eyes -- that I worried Kitano was really changing the legend too much, but happily he remained true to the original, & I would love to see him play Masseur Ichi a couple more times.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl