The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi


Generally favorable reviews - based on 33 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 30 out of 33
  2. Negative: 0 out of 33

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Critic Reviews

  1. A masterpiece of wry violence and stylized mayhem, The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi turns loose one of Japan's most brilliant film auteurs, Takeshi Kitano, on one of its most enduring pop legends.
  2. This roaring crowd-pleaser also boasts hilarious bits of business, insightful observations into the human condition, and geysers of kitschy computer-generated blood.
  3. The summer's most rousing action picture.
  4. 88
    The kind of film I more and more find myself seeking out, a film that seems alive in the sense that it appears to have free will; if, in the middle of a revenge tragedy, it feels like adding a suite for hoes and percussion, it does.
  5. A boisterous and improbably entertaining action comedy.
  6. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    If there's a larger theme in Zatoichi, it's that nobody is quite who he or she seems.
  7. It's a top-notch action film, albeit on the bloody side, complete with decisive action, mysterious characters and a nobility and sense of purpose that allows its excesses to be forgiven.
  8. Kitano uses exaggerated acting, choreo-graphed violence and, most radically, the rhythms of everyday life -- farmers pounding the earth, the syncopated plop of falling rain -- to turn this genre story into a crypto-Kabuki play and one blissfully idiosyncratic diversion.
  9. Kitano the filmmaker makes sure that everything is beautiful, from the wonderful colors and passing tableaux to the intricate fighting choreography. This blind swordsman, you realize, has vision to spare.
  10. 80
    As entertaining and surprising as the film is, however, nothing can prepare one for its rousing final fight scenes.
  11. Reviewed by: David Rooney
    Over-plotted and at times incoherent but never dull, this is a stylishly designed, highly entertaining bloodbath full of offbeat comedy and inspired musical moments.
  12. 80
    Although Zatoichi may disappoint some Kitano purists, who might think it a vanity piece or submission to popular taste -- he's even begun moving his camera -- its pyrotechnics are still audacious and breathtaking.
  13. Like many musicals, The Blind Swordsman works better in individual scenes than as a whole. Mr. Kitano is not the most disciplined storyteller, and the plot meanders along tangents and stumbles into flashbacks, losing momentum for long stretches in the middle.
  14. Beneath its layers of epic detail, this Zatôichi is cinematic cotton candy.
  15. 75
    The tap-dance finale is a gem.
  16. Hyper-violent yet emotionally powerful.
  17. More reinvention than remake, this black-humored, blood-soaked adventure is a colorful if impersonal audience pleaser done up in a showy, fluid style with a tongue-in-cheek flair.
  18. 75
    What really separates Zatoichi from a run-of-the-mill action pic is the sense of humor -- and even more than that, the sense of fun -- that Kitano brings to it.
  19. 75
    Because Kitano also wrote and directed the movie, Zatoichi also features all kinds of beguiling, if admittedly bizarre, subplots and forays into nonsequitur territory.
  20. 75
    Kitano is a riveting spectacle. So's the movie.
  21. It feels like one long non-sequitur -- like closing a Charles Bronson film with a disco medley -- but there's an emotional consistency to Kitano's boisterous celebration of movement.
  22. The movie, quite simply, goes to sleep whenever Zatoichi isn't fighting. When he is, it's a pulp dazzler.
  23. Stylishly directed and smartly acted, especially by the filmmaker-star, who gives one of his best performances as the unerring swordsman.
  24. Mixing all the liberal blood-letting with equal amounts of inspired comedy, Kitano puts a fresh face on the classic material without messing with its heart.
  25. 70
    Like Ang Lee's "Hulk," it's a fusion of arthouse and multiplex instincts, and though it seems unlikely to satisfy anyone, it's just as unlikely that anyone who sees it will forget it soon.
  26. Though the filmmaker has by now ridiculed the martial-arts drama virtually out of existence, the final dance number -- actually closer to festive stomping than tapping -- somehow manages to transcend irony, conveying instead only Kitano's childlike exhilaration, with a sense of ease regained.
  27. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    A mix-and-match crowd-pleaser that shouldn't add up, but delightfully does.
  28. 70
    A reasonably good Kurosawa pastiche. But overburdened with convoluted flashbacks and interpolated gags, and generally lacking a dynamic sense of cutting, the movie doesn't possess the master's sardonic brio.
  29. I never did sort out the gangsters fighting for control of a 19th-century town, nor did I figure out exactly what happened to the main henchman. But I was rarely bored.
  30. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    This incarnation is funny, quirky and clever, with some mesmerizing action sequences.
  31. A bravura tap-dancing finale as exhilarating as it is bizarre.
  32. The best part of Zatoichi is its fine sense of rhythm, culminating in a galvanizing clog-dance finish.
  33. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    What saves Zatoichi is that it ends -- for no clear reason -- with a foot-stomping ensemble dance number that is both delightful and unhinging: It sends you home with spasmodic giggles, convinced this Japanese imp has discovered a new path to your unconscious.

Awards & Rankings

User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 36 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 13 out of 14
  2. Negative: 0 out of 14
  1. Nov 22, 2013
    The story could be better developed since there are pacing problems, needless secondary characters and a guy who behaves like a geisha.The story could be better developed since there are pacing problems, needless secondary characters and a guy who behaves like a geisha. However 'Zatoichi' has a cool protagonist, a dangerous villain and bloody, realistic action. Moreover the acting is good, there are several intense moments and the ending will satisfy your need for retribution.
    Full Review »
  2. Riren
    Jan 30, 2007
    An unflinching revival of the Zatoichi series, this movie requires no knowledge of prior films, or even Japanese film history - though every An unflinching revival of the Zatoichi series, this movie requires no knowledge of prior films, or even Japanese film history - though every drop of knowledge helps. All you really need to know is that this is an expert's product in the new kind of film, that which will do whatever it wants whenever it wants. What Zatoichi does that others fail at is earn at or amuse with everything it decides to do, from dance scenes to fight scenes, from innuendo to philosophy. It's not as pretty as Hero or Curse of the Golden Flower, nor are its actors as internationally recognizable - but it is considerably better at doing almost everything that those two movies do, short the wire teams. Give it a try, and bring your friends. Full Review »
  3. JamesM
    Dec 11, 2005
    Takeshi Kitano's masterpiece. You must see this film.