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The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi

Kill Ginzo, Vol. 1

Interpreting the iconic character of the blind master-swordsman Zatoichi, who has enthralled Japanese audiences ever since he first graced the screen in 1962, auteur Takeshi Kitano (billed as Beat Takeshi) has crafted an entertaining yarn that could teach Quentin Tarantino a thing or two about choreographing fight scenes featuring maximum bloodletting. Blending light comedy with thrilling and beautifully filmed action sequences, The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi tells the engaging story of the nineteenth-century nomad who makes his living as a gambler and masseur. His hearing alone allows him to discern not only how the chips fall in the gambling house, but how thieves approach him on the road at night with the intention of doing him harm. Needless to say, the humble swordsman's quick moves and amazing precision save his hide time and again, setting off intentionally exaggerated showers of blood in motion whenever anyone gets in the path of his swinging cane sword.

The Blind Swordsman deftly handles three storylines that intersect inevitably in the end. As Zatoichi wanders into a remote mountain village that lives in constant dread of the local gang leader Ginzo (Ittoku Kishibe), masterless and unemployed samurai Hattori (Tadanobu Asano) proves himself worthy of being hired as Ginzo's bodyguard. Meanwhile, sibling geishas (Daigoro Tachibana and Yuuko Daike) avenge their parents' ruthless murder at the hands of - you guessed it - Ginzo. Each story would be worthy of its own film; together they make The Blind Swordsman truly fascinating. Writer-director Takeshi throws in enough surprises and supporting characters to keep things interesting until the final showdown. Perhaps it's not surprising that this historical drama, that addresses honor, loyalty, revenge, and gender roles equally, ends so perfectly with a musical number featuring tap-dancing peasants.