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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner10/07/2009

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 119 mins

Beautifully shot, sharply written and well acted, this is an emotionally engaging drama with some exciting fight sequences that provide an enjoyable twist on the Zatoichi character.

What's it all about?
Based on the Zatoichi character popularised in a series of films and TV shows (most recently Takeshi Kitano's 2003 thriller Zatoichi), Ichi stars Hakura Ayase as Ichi, a blind wandering goze singer who just happens to be rather handy with her concealed samurai sword. Cast out from her singing troupe for an alleged sexual liaison, Ichi is searching for the man she believes to be her father, but her search is interrupted when she saves traumatised samurai Toma (Takao Osawa) from a group of attackers.

However, Ichi's actions have unexpected repercussions when local yakuza Toraji Skirakawa (Yosuke Kubozuke) employs Toma as a bodyguard, believing him to be the master swordsman who cut down five men in one go. Meanwhile, psychotic yakuza boss Banki (Shidou Nakamura) orchestrates an attack on Toraji's territory, intending to confront the warrior responsible for the death of his men – with Toma unable to even draw his sword, will Ichi be able to save him in time?

The Good
The beautiful Haruka Ayase is superb as Ichi – she's graceful and athletic during the fight sequences and genuinely heartbreaking in the more emotional scenes. There's also strong support from Takao Osawa and Shidou Nakamura, as well as a scene-stealing performance from Go Rijyu as a young boy who befriends Ichi and keeps calling Toma ‘Coma’.

The film is beautifully shot – director Sori has a nice eye for wintry landscapes and there are some striking images. Similarly, the fight scenes are exciting and well handled, even if they're over in a flash. Thankfully, Sori's aware of this and throws in the odd slow motion sequence once in a while.

The Great
The basic plot may be fairly simplistic but the script is extremely effective, demonstrating a narrative economy that works surprisingly well, especially during a key flashback sequence and an indulgent but no less enjoyable montage sequence.

Worth seeing?
This is an emotionally engaging, well acted and beautifully shot drama with impressive fight scenes and strong characters. Well worth seeking out.

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Content updated: 27/02/2020 11:19

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