The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi
Both a piece with and apart from the other official Zatoichi flicks I've seen so far, as was to be expected. In particular, Kitano's take on the character is light years away from Shintaro Katsu's prankish, loose-limbed interpretation -- while the Zatoichi here may be a joker, for the most part he keeps all his jokes to himself. Kitano's trademark stoicism works beautifully here as he transforms the well-loved Japanese pop icon into a near-mute who, due to years and years of killing, has lost his sense of proportion as well as his morality. (The unexpected way the gambling-cheat scenario plays out is what cements this.) Sags a bit in the middle, what with its flashbacks galore and its surprisingly measured doses of swordplay, but the finale is one of the most exciting things I'll see this year -- a hack-n-slash tying up of loose ends intercut with a wild Stomp
-esque musical number. If you don't leave the theater dancing, check yer pulse mate.