The Zatoichi legend continues with this handsome tale of a blind, wandering musician and a cowardly samurai fighting bandits, spaghetti-Western style – with twists.
Firstly, this languid, at times dream-like Japanese movie is far from your standard katana-actioner, a long way from it’s frenetic forebears. Second, the Ichi character is a woman.
Blind from birth, Ichi (the exquisite and utterly engaging Haruka Ayase) is taught the sword by her father, for whom she now searches across Nippon’s feudal out-lands. Saving the life of a pacifist samurai, they fall into the employ of the local Yakuza, themselves under threat from disfigured gangster Banky (Shidou Nakamura).
Opening with the standard tropes of the mysterious gun-slinger arriving in town, Ichi has all the classic elements of a samurai adventure, although framed as an art-house movie by director Fumihiko Sori. The middle act replays the Fistful of Dollars / Yojimbo capture and escape of our heroine, while the third act is an epic action sequence and battle for redemption.
Ichi is at times a little slow and lingering, and the plotting is more than a little melodramatic, particularly at the climax. But the excellent cast play it straight, it has enough action to keep samurai fans hooked and it looks stunning. RC
Director: Fumihiko Sori
Writer: Taeko Asano
Certification (UK): 15
Running time: 119 mins
Genre: Action & Adventure, Historical
Cast: Haruka Ayase, Shido Nakamura, Shidou Nakamura, Takao Osawa, Yosuke Kubozuka