A small town terrorised by a clan of bandits find their only hope of salvation in the form of a wandering minstrel and a pacifist samurai who is unwilling to draw his sword.
The mantle of Zatoichi is passed on to the blind swordsman’s daughter who has become so bitter at her condition and treatment in life that she has become indifferent to the suffering of others. Ichi may not be overly original in its themes or plot but they are approached with enough sensitivity and maturity to create characters you not only root for when the blood starts spraying, but also care about. Our heroes are not the usual Gung Ho tough guys and are in their own way as damaged as each other, making for a much more interesting character dynamic than the usual hack and slasher. Having a female protagonist draws obvious comparisons with Azumi but it shares enough of the flavour of Yojimbo and The Twilight Samurai to make it feel a bit more adult, despite some rather over-ripe performances from the villains.
Ichi may not as cerebral and artful as Beat Takeshi’s reinvention but it is still a worthy addition to the long running franchise.