ZATOICHI: THE BLIND SWORDSMAN stars Japanese screen legend Beat Takeshi in an action-packed, award-winning film that has been compared to "Kill Bill Volume One." SONATINE also stars Beat Takeshi in a fast and furious gangl... more »and thriller with an edgy "Pulp Fiction" attitude. Both of these films include bonus DVD features, including an introduction to SONATINE by Quentin Tarantino, acclaimed director of such film favorites as "Pulp Fiction" and "Kill Bill" Volumes One and Two.« less
M. Veiluva | Walnut Creek, CA United States | 05/26/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Kitano's remake of the popular 1960's "Zatoichi-the Blind Swordsman" series (there were probably over two dozen of the original series) takes big risks but largely succeeds. Kitano is a darker, more sinister Zatoichi, and the action is a lot more Tarantino-esque. The sword action is first class but extremely violent, unlike the original series which, like the vintage Westerns, were mostly bloodless affairs. Blood squirts everywhere on the scale of "Kill Bill."
This is not the 1960s Zatoichi, who was a more light-hearted character who often avoided conflict and was even prepared to play a buffoon to avoid violence. Not so here - Kitano stalks his prey relentlessly, like the former Yakusa he was. There is a very adult story spliced in here about the two gisha runaways (one is not who s(he) appears to be) so forget about pre-teens watching this one. Unlike many Samurai period pieces, there is a plot here which is serious and sad.
The unexpected bonus to this movie is the excellent musical soundtrack consisting of Taiko drumming and dancing, well worth cranking up on a home theater system. Peasants threshing rice beat out a syncopated background to a scene, and there is a big Taiko musical send up (not too different from some of the 1960s Zatochi musical numbers) at the end."
Of swords and guns
Daitokuji31 | Black Glass | 01/27/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
I must admit that, although I live Takeshi Kitano and films, that I was a bit hesitant watching his version of the classic Shintaro Katsu series. I think the main thing that made me worry was Kitano's bleached blond hair, hehe. Well, I must say that Kitano definately does not disappoint with this film.
As with the 25+ Zatoichi movies, the plot is quite simple. A town is over run by criminals some individual seeks revenge and Zatoichi, the wandering blind masseur/gambler comes to town and kills every evil individual with ease, but with flair, until he comes to his final battle gets a bit injured. Those who like tradition of the Zatoici films will definately not be disappointed with this film.
The film begins simply enough with Zatoichi sitting on the side of the road enjoying the sunshine. A group of ronin disturb the peaceful massuer and wind up losing three or four of their comrades. Zatoichi eventually encounters Aunt Oume who informs him that the town in which she lives has gone to crap because the two head gangs, Ogi and Ginzo, have teamed up together, demanding protection money not only once a month, but everytime a gang member demands it. As usual, Zatoichi, does not come out and say that he will help, but of course he does.
Combined with a taciturn blond Zatoichi, the audience is also treated to Hattori Gennosuke a ronin who acts as the bodyguard for the Ginzo boss. This character has noble deeds for his job, however. He does it to support his sick wife. Might I add this character is played by Asano Tadanobu.
An interesting film with Kitano's trademark flair. The music is nice and fits the scenes well and the dance choreography by the dance group, The Stripes, is stunning. The set design is amazing, one almost feels as if one is in Tokugawa Japan.
I guess that I am like many other people interested in Japanese film, because it was the work of Kitano Takeshi that first sparked my interest in modern Japanese cinema. The first film I watched of Kitano's was the bittersweet comedy _Kikujiro_ and while I thought that it was a bit sappy, it opened the door for me to delve into Japanese Film. The thing that amazed me the most about Kitano's films are how un-formulaic they are and that they are also quite unique from each other, but one can see common Kitano elements.
_Sonatine_ starts off simply enough. Murakawa is the head of a small group of yakuza who rules his district with an iron fist. He does not hesitate an iota before either having someone killed or beating someone into a bloody pulp. However, it seems that his presence makes some oh his higher ups a bit nervous because he is sent to Okinawa to aid the Nakamatsu gang against the Anan gang. Taking a group of colorful individuals with him, Murakawa joins up with a few local Yakuza. However, the Nakamatsu boss is quick to state that there is no real problem. However, trouble soon begins when members of Murakawa's gang are killed in a bomb explosion and later in a shoot out. Murakawa and the surviving members of the gang hide out in a beach side home.
Instead of being terrified of being hunted down by the Anan gang. The yakuza group, including Murakawa, seem to really enjoy themselves at the beach. If you thought it was funny to see a couple of bikers play like children in _Kikujiro_, wait till you see yakuza shooting fireworks at each other and digging pits to catch their friends.
However, the movie truly has a state of foreboding over it. One just can't help but wait for this ideal time to end for Murakawa and his fellow yakuza.
I was urged by my Japanese film professor to watch _Sonatine_. He told me that he believed it was the perfect summation of Kitano's films. While I definitely would not call _Sonatine_ my favorite film by Kitano, it is quite good and it should be watched by Kitano fans
Eric | Philadelphia | 11/16/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"ok, to be honest, i have not yet watched Zatoichi. i'm not here to review that. judging by the reviews of the others on here, you can see that you either love it or hate it. i'm here to recommend SONATINE.
people seem to overlook Sonatine. to be honest, that was the reason i bought this DVD. Sonatine was previously not available on DVD, and you could only get it in a full screen VHS. now it's here in all it's glory. don't expect a crazy action movie like Zatoichi, Sonatine is more akin to Hana-Bi (aka Fireworks). very slow paced, but still very good. this double feature is worth it just for Sonatine."
In homage to Kurosawa
Orz | Golden, CO | 11/19/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the type of Beat Takeshi film I have been yearning to see for a decade. It is a Japanese period film stylistically similiar to Kurosawa's Yojimbo and Sanjuro. Takeshi however has modernized the genre with the utmost taste and care. The music, the acting, the swordfights, the tap dances, the camerawork, the plot, the computerwork... all utterly amazing. Takeshi set out to make a "Big Screen" work to entertain the masses and he has far surpassed any expectations.
I cannot believe this hasn't exploded onto the big screen in America. This movie can be enjoyed on a number of different levels by an extremely wide audience.
If you haven't seen this movie go out and rent it, you will not be disappointed.
Godon Sensei would be Proud! "
Guapo Poppo | Tiajuana, WA Estados Unidos | 05/13/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This Zatoichi movie is a twist on a long line of Japanese movies about a classic hero, a blind Samuri. Everything gets a bit twisted, from the heros blond hair to the cross dressing geisha. It is every bit as bloody as noted in other reviews, however the fight scenes are wonderfully choreographed and the CG slow motion blood droplets are really actually pretty in a strange way. There are no long drawn out fight scenes,the action is abrupt and certian.
There is a special feature on the making of the movie and Kitano explains some of his ideas for the movie. My absolute favorite scene in this movie has become one of my favorite scenes in any movie, it is the showdown near the end of the movie where Zatoichi faces another skilled Samurai the other Samurai visualizes how he will defeat Zatoichi because the grip Zatoichi is using will allow him to be a fraction of a second faster, after visualizing this he looks up at Zatoichi and smiles. Zatoichi quickly changes his grip, momentarily throwing his opponent off guard, then attacks at once. He of course wins instantly."