Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo (Japan 1970)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 4/30/00
Cast: Shintaro Katsu, Toshiro Mifune

Twentieth film in the series.

Considered by many to be the best of the "Zatoichi" films, but I was severely let down. Two words sum it up pretty well - long and boring. This film has Zatoichi (Shintaro Katsu) returning to a village from his past, but things aren't like they used to be. He meets a rival in a brash and arrogant yojimbo (bodyguard) played by Toshiro Mifune, and the two of them spend most of the movie trying to outwit each other while trying to track down a stash of hidden gold. Greed is the primary motivator in this film, and everyone suffers for it. A big budget film that's well acted and well directed, but it seems to seriously miss its mark. Too much reliance is placed on the dynamic tension between the two charismatic leads, and their petty squabbling isn't enough to carry the entire movie. Like so many efforts to team up popular actors/characters, the end result is a watered down compromise. The film is also out of character for its more humorous and campy portrayal of Zatoichi, which is hard to take seriously. Still, the cinematography is great, and the action scenes are well executed and fairly exciting. A mixed bag.