Review Date: 4/21/01
Cast: Shintaro Katsu
Eleventh film in the series.
Poor Zatoichi. This time around, he deliberately avoids getting involved in a messy situation, but several twists of fate get him involved anyway. Having been thrown in jail for illegal gambling, Ichi meets a prisoner sentenced to be executed who begs him to go to his boss to have his name cleared. He decides it's safer to ignore the man's request, but ends up in the doomed man's home town after assisting an injured merchant. He also meets up with a goofy con-man who starts impersonating Zatoichi in order to make a quick buck here and there (which starts to taint Ichi's reputation). Eventually the pieces all fall together as Ichi discovers the doomed man was set up, and he kills about sixty men that were sent to keep him from talking.
Beautifully filmed and full of great scenery, but the story is tiresome and sluggish. Additionally, the editing is choppy and the action scenes lack vitality. Shintaro Katsu is once again wonderful as Zatoichi, but it seems like he's simply going through the motions in this film. The con-man is actually rather amusing and does an uncanny impersonation of Ichi, but this angle isn't played up enough. The climax of the film is beautifully shot at a dock that's shrouded in mist, as dozens of men attack Ichi from all sides. Sadly, the choreography, cinematography, and editing of this sequence are all lacking, resulting in an unsatisfying ending.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the movie comes from watching the trailer, which is made up almost entirely of scenes that aren't in the film! Some scenes are different takes of things that happen in the film, while others feature characters and subplots that aren't in the film at all. One bewildering shot shows one of the villains being killed in an entirely different time and place than he does in the final edit of the film. From the trailer we get a sense that this was a troubled production, and perhaps this is why the film feels unfinished and has difficulty coming together.