Zatôichi (The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi)

2003

Zatôichi (The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi)

Critics Consensus

Colorful, rich with action and wonderfully choreographed, Takeshi Kitano takes on the classic samurai character with his own brand of cinematic flair.

87%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 126

88%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 39,421
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Zatôichi (The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi) Photos

Movie Info

A sightless samurai in 19th-century Japan helps two sisters get revenge on the gang that murdered their parents. Cult director and star Takeshi Kitano's revival of the long-running Japanese series is a kinetic, highly stylized piece of filmmaking. Michiyo Ohgusu, Guadalcanal Taka, Daigoro Tachibana, Yuko Daike.

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Cast

Takeshi Kitano
as Zatôichi/Ichi
Michiyo Ohgusu
as Aunt O-Ume
Daigoro Tachibana
as Geisha O-Sei
Yuko Daike
as Geisha O-Kinu
Tadanobu Asano
as Gennosuke Hattori
Ben Hiura
as Tavern Pops
Kohji Miura
as Lord Sakai
Hideboh Ron II
as Dancing Farmer
Suji Noriyasu
as Dancing Farmer
Makoto Ashikawa
as Carpenter
Tsumami Edamame
as Carpenter
Kosuke Ohta
as Carpenter
Naomasa Musaka
as Yakuza Boss on the Country Road
Shoken Kunimoto
as Rival Swordsman
Daigaku Sekine
as Ginzo's Henchman I
Koji Koike
as Boss Funahachi
Koji Kiryu
as Dice Dealer at Funahachi's Joint
Taiki Kobayashi
as Funahachi's Bodyguard
Ayano Yoshida
as Young O-Kinu
Taichi Saotome
as Young O-Sei, aka Seitaro
Kanji Tsuda
as Playboy at Home
Ikki Goto Spinwake
as Kuchinawa Underling 1
Yoshio Nakamura
as Kuchinawa Underling 4
Hiroaki Noguchi
as Kuchinawa Underling 5
Shinichi Nakatsu
as Kuchinawa Underling 2
Toru Yonezu
as Kuchinawa Underling 4
P-Man
as Tavern Customer 4
Al Kitago
as Farmer Boy 1
Omiyanomatsu
as Farmer Boy 2
Tsutomu Takshige
as Farmer Boy 4
Ganbino Kobayashi
as Farmer Boy 5
Sammy Moremore Jr.
as Farmer Boy 6
Muhomatsu
as Farmer Boy with a Spear
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News & Interviews for Zatôichi (The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi)

Critic Reviews for Zatôichi (The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi)

All Critics (126) | Top Critics (38)

  • This film is a shebang, a full-scale show, complete with everything you would happily pay to see: costumes, tattoos, scratchy folk music, gambling in saki dens. You will eat it up.

    Dec 19, 2017 | Full Review…
  • The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi begins life as a straight-up samurai movie, evolves into a slapstick comedy and ends as a rousing, tap-dancing musical.

    May 27, 2011
  • Zatoichi is a mix-and-match crowd-pleaser that shouldn't add up, but delightfully does.

    Nov 1, 2007 | Full Review…

    David Ansen

    Newsweek
    Top Critic
  • However improbably, Kitano pulls it off quite gloriously. Admittedly, this isn't one of his most idiosyncratic, innovative or, indeed, satisfying works, but it's without doubt fast, funny, fabulous to behold.

    Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…

    Geoff Andrew

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • For those unfamiliar with such films, Zatoichi might be a little off-putting. But given a chance, the movie can be pretty entertaining.

    Sep 30, 2004 | Rating: 3.5/5
  • This isn't arty violence, just violence, and pretty pedestrian for a samurai picture.

    Aug 27, 2004 | Rating: 2/5

Audience Reviews for Zatôichi (The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi)

  • Jan 11, 2019
    This is an interesting movie for me to watch. Not only because I watched it before I was done with my review of the previous movie I watched (Underworld: Blood Wars) and it offered me some ways to compare the two in that review. But because I've had the DVD for this movie for quite a fucking while now. I don't know for how long, but it has to be nearing a decade if not more than that. This movie came bundled with another Takeshi Kitano film, Sonatine, which I actually have seen twice through the years. As an aside, Sonatine is a highly underrated and underappreciated gem that I would highly recommend. I think part of the reason that it took me so long to get to this movie (and this isn't even the only DVD I've done this with) is that streaming services, mostly Netflix, took over my life and, much to my own subconscious chagrin, I ignored the DVDs I spent hundreds of dollars on. And, really, some I do not know where some of these DVDs are in all honesty. Regardless, there's something weird in that I don't like to watch movies the same day I buy them. I own the DVD, of course, but I just don't like it. Feels like I spent that money to blow it almost immediately. So there is something to the fact that I like to have it for a while before I do eventually watch it. That way it feels like I got my money's worth. This probably makes sense to, at least, a few of you. But it clearly wasn't my intention to wait as long as I have to watch this movie. Having said all of that, has that decade long wait been worth it??? Yes, you could say that. An emphatic yes actually, because I thought this movie was pretty fucking great all things considered. Zatoichi has had a long and storied history in Japan, with TWENTY-SIX films made and a television series (four seasons with 100 episodes). So to say that Takeshi Kitano (whom I love) had his work cut out for him in terms of producing a movie that did something new while still respecting the 41 year old history (at the point of this film's release) of the franchise is an understatement. I'll be honest, as much as it ruins my street cred, but I have not seen a single Zatoichi movie of the 26 produced. So I cannot say whether or not this stacks up favorably to those films. But, let's be honest, with twenty-six entries in one franchise, a few of them are bound to be clunkers. All I can speak from is my perspective upon having seen this film and I thought it was a great movie with great characters, a lot of humor and strongly choreographed action scenes. I think one of the things that you immediately notice from the movie is how much care is actually put into the characters in this movie. Zatoichi's past is kept purposely mysterious. But Hattori played by Tadanobu Asano, takes a job being this gang's bodyguard in order to care for his ailing wife. Okinu and Osei (the geishas) are after Ginzo/Inosuke for his role in their family's murder. Really, they're after everyone that's involved, it's just that Ginzo was the ringleader. There's a lot of story in this movie, since Ginzo is the right hand-man, as it were, of the head of this gang, who's seemingly on his last legs. A gang that's been terrorizing this village and attempting to take over everyone's turf. There's really a lot going on here, but I do think the movie's narrative is really easy to follow and it never gets confusing in the slightest, which was something that worried me when I saw that the film was handling so many characters all at once. Another thing that I noticed about the movie is the amount of comedy it has. I do not know if the original Zatoichi films contained a lot of humor, but Takeshi Kitano made his name as a comedian in Japan, so it's obvious this film was gonna have some of his trademark humor. One of the funniest scenes, to me, in the entire movie is Shinkichi (who's about as useless as they come) training these dimwits in combat. He does this by going through a rehearsed set of moves that the dimwits are supposed to counter when he moves his stick to the spot they're assigned to. This, naturally, ends up failing and Shinkichi gets hit repeatedly by the dimwits' wooden sticks. This guy can't catch a break. Shinkichi's a really entertaining character. Another thing that really stuck out in my mind, and this is a big one, is how trans friendly this movie is. And I don't really know if Osei, who's a man who prefers to dress as a woman, is trans or if he's just a cross-dresser, but I thought it was really cool that they portrayed Osei in a really positive manner as they tie his dressing up as a woman to what happened to him as a child, being forced to make ends meet after their parents (who were rich) were murdered. To tell that story and to then make fun of Osei for his choices would have felt really contradictory. So, yea, I thought that was really nice. The action is great as well, even if some of the sword CG looks really outdated. And the narrative is a strong one as well, with Zatoichi trying to find out who the leader of the gang is (his face is never seen until the reveal at the end) and how all of the supporting characters are involved in this is really satisfying. In short, that's really the best word movie I can use to describe this movie. It's just a great and really satisfying experience. It's kind of weird to use the term crowd-pleaser in relation to this film, but that's also a great term to describe this movie. I feel like this review sucked mightily, but I can't really complain much about this movie. While I was watching it, I felt that there were some bits that felt aimless, like Zatoichi's first scene in the casino but, upon having finished the film, I feel that everything in this movie filled a purpose and a role. It all leads to the eventual sword fight between Zatoichi and Hattori and how their paths converge, despite Hattori himself not being an evil man. And, of course, Zatoichi discovering who the real leaders of the gang are and getting rid of them, so the village can finally live in peace. I don't know, very few complaints from me honestly, I thought this was a fucking great movie and one that I would easily recommend.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer
  • Apr 12, 2015
    It is easier to appreciate this very fine samurai film due to its formal rigor (especially with such a great cinematography and score) than to enjoy it, since its narrative structure suffers from being a bit overplotted and has too many characters in constant fight for screen time.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Aug 20, 2012
    I decided to checkout Takeshi Kitano since the last time I saw him in a movie was the completely unsatisfying sequel Battle Royale 2. The Blind Swordsman: Zatochi is not for everyone, but luckily I was one who enjoyed it. The Blind Swordsman: Zatochi is about a blind swordsman who comes to a town in control of warring gangs, and meets two women (one that looks like a woman but is man) with their own agenda. The pace of the movie is very slow in terms of plot, but it's very quick when it comes to action which is the reason it's not for everyone. The plot was actually quite interesting and it what made keep watching. It's unfocused with moments despite being well executed are entirely distracting, I could have done without the dance number at the end. The secondary characters do have interesting back story and it does keep you guessing til the end, but ultimately its Kitano that'll hold your attention. Kitano makes convincing Samurai and performs the choreographed sword fight are surprisingly good despite our swordsman being blind. I did enjoy the sword fights, but they do look fake thanks to some unconvincing special effects and the CGI blood doesn't look convincing. The photography is amazing making this one visually appealing movie thanks to some colorful scenery, and they even have Kitano signature of maintaining a shot for a long period whether time or not something is happening. Yet despite being uneven in some areas it an artistic Samurai flick that I ultimately enjoyed thanks to an interesting approach to the genre and with a interesting swordsman. The Blind Swordsman: Zatochi is a artistic Samurai film that'll leave some unhappy due to its distracting slow pace plot and action that moves too fast for some to enjoy. For others, it'll be an interesting take on the genre with an visionary artist who made one best take of Zatochi character.
    Caesar M Super Reviewer
  • Jul 23, 2012
    Smart, stylish, and even somewhat complex action flick that delivers a bit more than the usual Hollywood film of this sort. However, the obligatory fight scenes and needless bloodshed that is expected from any action film makes Zatoichi more conventional and formulaic than Kitano's earlier more acclaimed films. The bloodshed was tastefully done, I mean there was a lot, but it wasn't as repulsive as I thought it would be. I thoroughly enjoyed the comic bit where an unskilled Shinkichi tries to show off in front of 3 village boys and ends up hurting himself. In the end, the film isn't very profound or thought provoking, its a commercial action film that is very entertaining and a notch above the rest.
    G S Super Reviewer

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