ICHI [Blu-ray]
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48 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on October 21, 2009
Historical samurai dramas are the Japanese equivalent of the Western except that they still maintain their credibility. This is a reworking of the popular Zatoichi the blinds swordsman series, with a blind female musician trying to track down the person who may or may not be Zatoichi and who may or may not be her father.

I like the structure as more and more is revealed about the two main characters over the course of the film through the use of flashbacks which can, early on, sometimes be misleading. Toma, the samurai whom Ichi protects, at first appears to be nothing more than a coward but he is more than that and there are resonances which I don't want to spoil. The two leads are absolutely fine in their roles, the cute kid who helps Ichi is bearable, but the villains tend to be over the top. In particular the chief bad guy comes over like a psycho samurai Quentin Tarantino, whom he rather resembles.

It's attractively photographed with several striking snow scenes. There is a strong emotional content and lots of brooding silences, profundities, and deep thoughts -this is a samurai movie after all. There's even more blood, lashings and lashings of it as our heroine wades through the bad guys using her special backhanded slicing technique. The climax features even more blood and carnage with bad guys against good guys, hero against villain, heroine ag... ah, that would be telling.

I had a good time watching this. Sequel, please.
I have the UK edition. It's in Japanese with English subtitles. No extras apart from a trailer.
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36 of 44 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 22, 2009
Ichi is one of those films that I've been meaning to tackle for some time. The look, the feel, the mood, and the mythological elements are all of undeniable Asian influence. Yes there are undefeatable principles at play within that span beyond the swordplay and action elements in the foreground. Before we look at the excellent philosophical tones of the picture, let's get the hard facts out of the way.

Coming in at a 120-minute runtime, Ichi consists of the full-length feature film on a single disc housed within a standard clamshell DVD case. The show wears an appropriate if not slightly conservative Restricted ® rating due to violent imagery, swordplay, digital gore and a healthy dose of character-driven drama.

Language options are typical sub & dub meaning both the original Japanese vocal track is present as well the choice of an English dub (either presented in 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound) with the option of running English subtitles available with either vocal track.

The story, which has to be watched to be fully understood (or appreciated for that matter), goes something like this: Ichi, the female incarnation of the legendary blind swordsman Zatoichi, is herself a blind master of the blade and roams about town with her shamisen (a three-stringed Japanese guitar) in a mission to locate the man who helped raise her. Alone the way she happens upon no shortage of unsavory characters (rapists, thieves, and hustlers) looking to take advantage of her.
Ichi is no pushover, as the baddies soon discover in dramatic visual style, and defends herself with spectacular swordplay time and time again. Shot in a blend of slow and regular motion segments, and with digital blood spurting wildly, the film is a testament to the charms of Asian cinema (and calls to mind some of Quentin Tarantino's frequent homage in films such as "Kill Bill").

As the prose develops, so too does the cast increase with Ichi herself gaining the companionship of a young male traveling partner despite the fact that she is by far the better sword wielder. Haruka Ayase's performance as Ichi seems to depend heavily upon the viewer's expectations going into the film. I found her to be convincing enough and somehow proud despite her attire of rags but it appears as though fans of Shintaro Katsu's original Japanese television incarnation of the mythos are quite divided on this casting choice.

Villains, as is par for the course in these situations, are a bit over the top in my opinion (Nakamura Shidou in particular). However, while this may be a large detractor in an American big budget film, the Japanese have a habit of making the unbelievable believable through gritty ambiance and dialog that doesn't oversimplify character motivations.

Shooting locations and cinematography are particularly noteworthy for their massive scope and stunning vistas (particularly some of the snow segments, which can send a chill through even the most well-wrapped blanketed viewer).

The downside is that this simply isn't a piece of Asian cinema that will capture and hold the attention of the casual viewer. The pacing and plotting often become a bit bogged down upon themselves with an excessive of moments of silent reflection, brooding sighs, and artistic framing. For the most part this all works, but there will invariably be those a bit put-off by the pace fluctuations throughout (especially those viewers accustomed to the fast-cut American method of contemporary filmmaking).

The sound score is perhaps the biggest surprise with some really nice keys that go a long way in complementing the whimsical backgrounds.

In all, the picture works best when approached as a visually striking romp through a fairly historically accurate setting. Digging too deeply into the mythos seems to reveal complaints in many forms and the cast is a bit too inconsistent to win over the masses. Perhaps such complaints sound harsh, but the truth of the matter is that there is a lot of entertainment to be found here so long as you don't let expectations of grandeur bury it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 17, 2011
Beautiful Actress! Great character! I very much enjoyed this movie, it had a good story line and the characters were developed enough to keep your interest, even the supporting child actor was charming, thanks!
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15 of 21 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 11, 2009
ICHI THE BLIND SWORDSWOMAN (2009) is a redux of Zatoichi, the Blind Swordsman; the classic Jidai Geki TV series. Directed by Fumihiko Sori, (Vexille, "Ping Pong"), with screenplay by Shimosawa Kan; this film switches the gender of the lead character, has significant improvements but it also lacks some of the original's strengths. "Ichi" stars beautiful Japanese bikini model/actress Ayase Haruka, and this is her follow up role to "Cyborg She" (which I will review later). The film is a departure from the stylistic style of Kitamura's "AZUMI" and is a welcome return for director Sori to his action roots after the fun-filled "Ping Pong".

Ichi (Haruka Ayase) is a beautiful, blind musician who travels this Edo period Japan with her traditional Japanese guitar and a walking stick--well, a walking stick at first impression, but inside, she hides a razor sharp katana. Ichi may be blind, but she is also a skilled swordswoman. In her quest to find the man who helped bring her up, she comes across swindlers, rapists, gangsters who want to take advantage of her disability. Ichi fights back with her remarkable sword fighting skills. Sometime during her travels, she meets up with a cowardly, dishonored samurai named Touma (Takao Osawa, Aragami) who she ends up saving from angry gamblers affiliated with the Banki Gang. The pair unwittingly become entangled in a turf war between the Shirakawa and Banki clans battling for supremacy in a small inn town of Bitou. Ichi may find the answers she is looking for in the person of the leader (played by Shido Nakamura) of the Banki group of cutthroats--and the resolution of the conflict may reveal the fate of the man she is looking for.

"Ichi" is a film that is very commercial in its appeal. It has the charm to attract the younger generation as well as samurai aficionados, as well as electrify the male testosterone because of Haruka Ayase. This actress is beautiful, and although she barely wears any make up, and this role has wearing rags, her close ups are enough to add excitement and you can tell that she has a model-like statuesque figure. Ayase became well acclimated to the action genre after "Cyborg She" and she does have the presence that can grab attention.

The film may have the somewhat stereotypical themes of redemption, revenge and compassion as is quite familiar with jidai geki films, and I don't deny that the film has certain weaknesses in its premise. I don't mind stereotypical storylines, but film feels a little routine. Ichi was brought up by a Goze group of blind performers and she was exiled when she was sexually abused. The Goze faction of musicians are an odd lot, their rules are certainly fleshed out but I was left asking for the reasons as to why such rules would apply. Yes, "Ichi" does have a lot of emotions going for it, and her links to a certain blind swordsman does manage to entice our attention. The problem is, the film is filled with over-the-top characters that threatens to overshadow its tone. Director Sori is responsible for such anime hits such as "Vexille" and "Appleseed", and you can see the costume designs by our villains look very anime-inspired. Also, the bumbling samurai played by Takao Osawa has his interesting qualities, I can buy his reasons for not wanting to use his sword but this fact overstays its welcome as there were times in the last act that I almost screamed "Draw your sword, dammit!" Of course there is a developing romance between Touma and Ichi, but the film doesn't develop this too much.

Well, does "Ichi" deliver in its action sequences? Yes and no. Yes, the fights are very cool to watch and they are quite kinetic in its execution. There are also a very good number of them, Ichi is on display as she quickly dispatches her assailants with quick thrusts and stabs, complete with very nice posturing, "Ichi" provides great eye candy. There are also a significant use of slow motion to display Ayase's moves--this would normally bother me, but I am willing to forgive its use this time around. Director Sori also doesn't make Ayase's character seem too invincible, Ichi does have her female vulnerabilities, as skilled as she is, she is a woman and has her limits. Ichi has a strong advantage when she fights in the dark, but may have more of a handicap when there are some loud noises. As for why I also said no, well, the fights may look cool, but they were lacking some credible impact in its narrative. The script hampers the action sequences, because while it does attempt to carry emotion, it doesn't feel climactic. I guess the set ups were also too simple and they can be very routine.

The cinematography is quite gorgeous, and accompanied by a somber, moody score, the film does manage to impress me in the way it plays each scene. The film's color palette leans towards the tone of Earth colors as with most jidai geki films and the atmosphere does resemble a Kurosawan samurai film, with the wind blowing dirt meant to signify a finale. The set designs are also good, they are very similar to Kitamura's "Azumi". Director Sori brought along his buddies responsible for "Ping Pong", Shido Nakamura and Yosuke Kunozuka performed well, but it just felt like a step backward when compared to their previous film together.

Ultimately, "ICHI" won't be one unforgettable jidai geki film, but the film does have its charm and the action scenes are good enough for "hack and slash" feature. Plus, there is the absolutely stunning Haruka Ayase who is just so damn attractive who roams around feudal Japan, slicing and dicing her way to her quest. The film closes in a manner that leaves it open for a sequel. Despite the film's flaws, I found it quite entertaining. Don't expect a film very faithful to its roots but just be along for the ride. This "Zatoichi" re-imagining will not make a dent on the classic status of Shintaro Katsu's original but thankfully it is a good enough diversion.

Recommended! [3 ½ Stars]

Video/Audio: 1.78 ratio anamorphic widescreen. Nice clean transfer. The film is sharp with restrained colors, favorable to earth colors. The 5.1 Dolby Digital track is strong and powerful. The English Subtitles are good but sometimes they scroll too fast.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 5, 2013
I am thrilled to say that over all I loved this film. Its one of the best samurai movies I have seen. Members here should honestly try to avoid searching for one singular weakness in a film and then judging it thereby only on the merits of that weakness. In the case of this film its clear that the dubbed english voices make it difficult to take this film seriously. The dubbing leaves a great deal to be desired. But one must look beyond this and consider every aspect of the film. I did just that and understand that the dubbing is really its only weakness. Of course the impact of the film is greatly effected by it. But I honestly feel there are some operatic and beautiful moments in this film none the less. I was very pleased to discover that Lisa Gerrard created the music for this film. Her work seems a bit lackluster in portions of the movie, but some of her work here is simply beautiful and touching, especially as the film progresses. Lisa began her career as the front member of the 4AD band Dead Can Dance, She has provided music and voices for many films since, including doing compositions for Ridley Scotts Gladiator for which I believe she won an oscar, or was at least nominated. If you can look beyond the poor dubbing you might agree that this movie has some wonderfully glorious epic moments that take it nearly into oscar territory. I think the film is nearly a masterpiece that is unfortunately shrouded in the dust of poor voice dubbing. But everything beyond that is fantastic at times. Even the sound effects and so fourth are done fairly good. I really would love to see this in its original japanese language print, because I think it deserves to be seen as the director intended rather than with silly sounding actors trying to add voice tracks to an otherwise way above average Japanese movie and nearly ruining the lush beauty of it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 11, 2011
I saw this at my local video store and, being a totally huge fan of the original Zatoichi movies, decided to pick this up and give it a whirl. Now, I've picked up any number of modern Japanese/Asian action/sword movies over the years and would venture to say that really only a handful are actually watchable... unless you are REALLY, REALLY motivated to appreciate modern Japanese/Asian cinema for some reason.

That being said I wasn't expecting much, and frankly, I was going to be impressed with this movie if it actually made sense, and only slightly butchered the whole "Zatoichi" thing.

So needless to say I was super surprised to discover that not only was this a coherent flick - but it was actually, well....good.

Unlike the recent Beat Takeshi redux of the Zatoichi franchise this film doesn't make the mistake of messing with the original character by reinventing the way it's portrayed. Instead it tells a new story with a wholly new character, while utilizing the things that made the original movies so great. While the sometimes goofy, friendly, good natured, blind Gambler/Masseuse Who-Happens-To-Also-Be-An-Unstoppable-Badass, has been replaced by an introverted, female Who-Is-Only-Slightly-Badass-And-Has-An-Actual-Backstory...the connection to the original films is actually very strong. From the way the fight scenes are choreographed, to the way the story unfolds with a trademark gang of bad guys harassing some poor small village/inn. The best part about this movie is that it a lot of ways it "feels" like a Zatoichi movie, even though it's a very different take on the mythos.

The dialogue for this was probably poorly translated but ended up being not too bad for a Japanese action flick. The story made sense, and I found myself actually sort of caring what happened to these folks. Aside from a couple of the villains (one of whom, in addition to clearly being a white guy, is the spitting image of Conway Twitty) most of the cast is fairly believable. One of my favorite things is that the action sequences in this movie are paced in a way that's similar to the original films, but with that modern slow-mo flare that's just super-duper. I am going to go so far as to say that this film is a much better modern take on Zatoichi then it's more famous predecessor.

So if you're looking for a halfway decent samurai flick - this delivers. However, if you are a fan of the original series, then you're going to be presently surprised to find a very unconventional homage to the Zatoichi films that's a pleasure to watch.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 7, 2013
Blind but she is no damsel in distress with her back hand slash technique. She is known as an outcast or called Goze Who gets little respect an is betrayed by many people, you learn all the hardships an pain one goze goes threw, I guess you can say she's almost a ray Charles version of a women samurai who plays a mean Shamisen(3 stringed traditional banjo) an unlike ray Charles is very deadly, Trained by her father Zatoichi who you don't see very much in the movie except in various flashbacks. The story is very progressive as you gather bits an peices an you learn of her tragic story as it unfolds, she comes across characters like Toma who at first impression comes on as aloof but has similiar connections with ichi that makes you root for him later on in the story an a cute kid that has a sensible heart for Ichi makes it gratifying. Don't get me wrong it is a bloods an guts samurai movie as limbs are flying all over the place like a kill bill movie toss salad an the villains do have that over the top brass look that you only want them dead anyway very similar to the gang villains in kill bill .

There's no computer animated graphics no leaping 100 feet in the air just beautifully choreographed sword fights that tells the tale of beauty grit an violence mixed all together . I only wish there was sequel
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 4, 2011
I wanted to like the film. It would have made an interesting series. The film is very good looking in the color and scenes, and costumes. Read "Prince Ashel" and "Oneneo" reviews which made me purchase it. The villains are bad and mean, maybe little bit over the top, but so much the better reason to kill them. The one actor who should have made the the film go forward smoothly and with interest, was the young instructor swordman. But that was not to be, the director did not control his over acting, when he needed to draw his sword, this was a very sour note. The reviewers "S. Sun" and "Donald A. Prentiss" were on mark about the film. I would still say to Asian film buffs, it is still worth the viewing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I have seen previews of this movie before so I knew a little of what to expect. This is a classic reboot of the famous blind swordsmen, but the writers did a fantastic job of converting to a blind woman. Details are excellent and her sword moves are clean. Acting is excellent and the action is fast brutal and final. This is indeed a great retelling of the classic line and would love to see more.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2010
This movie was a great retelling of the Blinds Swordsman. Beautiful scenery, and a beautiful actress as the main role. The movie great overall - and it's sad knowing that not too many people will pass this up seeing it as another foreign flop. The movie is well worth the buy. BUY.
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