Film #220: ICHI
3 out of 5 stars
As a HUGE fan (and having seen all) of the 26 films and 112 television episodes in the Zatoichi series, I went into this film with some trepidation. I wondered… “Is this going to be a blatant rip-off or is it going to be a heartfelt homage. The good & bad news is… it’s a bit of both. First the good news… The cinematography in the film is beautiful. The action is ok and there’s a bit too much CG blood for my tastes (not nearly what there was in “Beat” Takeshi’s version though). The story and the acting are about what you’d expect with the stunning Haruka Ayase being a standout. Now, the bad news… By casting a female as the lead, culture restrictions keep her from a) really kicking ass and b) allowing her to fight the main bad guy until he’s been suitably injured by the male lead actor. This makes the character seem flawed and not nearly as badass as it should be. For those who don’t know the series, Zatoichi - while blind - is a one man wrecking crew. His ability to dispatch opponents is without equal. And, while he does get injured now and again, he never is down for the count so long as to miss the epic final battle. Not so with this female actress. In fact, in one scene, she’s damn near killed. So, bottom line… is the film worth seeing. For completists, absolutely. If you’ve already sat through 139 tales of the epic swordsman, one more won’t hurt. For casual viewers as well, the film is delightful to look at even if its story is kind of infuriating at times. For neophytes, well… my suggestion is to go rent the first Shintaro Katsu film and start working your way though ALL OF THEM. The Zatoichi series (much like the BABYCART ASSASSIN series or even the HANZO THE RAZOR films) are required viewing for anyone interested in chanbara films.