Wednesday, January 6, 2010

THE BLIND SWORDSMAN: ZATOICHI (Blu-Ray)

In 2003, renowned Japanese filmmaker Takeshi Kitano wrote, directed and starred in (under his stage name of "Beat Takeshi") a reimagined version of the classic Zatoichi series. The popular and long-running film series chronicled the adventures of a blind swordsman wandering feudal Japan.

In Kitano’s version, Zatoichi is a blond, blind masseur and gambler who becomes involved with various eccentric and unusual characters in a small town being bled dry by warring gangs of ruthless criminals. Of course, when the oppression of the gangs becomes intolerable, the humble Zatoichi is forced to demonstrate his extraordinary skill with a sword.

Filled with colorful imagery and colorful characters, as well as some very well-staged action sequences and surprising humor, ZATOICHI is a singular viewing experience. The entire cast is superlative, and Kitano’s direction is both utterly involving and visually stylish. The only thing that bugged me was the extensive use of computer-generated blood during the fight scenes. Not because it was excessive, but because it was unconvincing and somewhat cartoonish. Maybe that was Kitano’s intent, but it didn’t really work for me.

Miramax’s Blu-Ray presentation is pretty decent, with a solid 1.85:1 1080p HD widescreen transfer. Two audio options are provided: an English dub in 5.1 DTS-HD and the original Japanese language track in 5.1 Dolby Digital. A Spanish language track is also included. The only bonus features are a brief Behind The Scenes featurette and video interviews with some of the film’s crew.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie. The Blu-Ray presentation isn’t spectacular, but it still looks pretty good. For fans of the samurai genre, it’s definitely worth checking out.

BUY: The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi [Blu-ray]