2016, Torin Inc./Mamezo Pictures/Dark Cuts/Petri Entertainment
Sam K. Yano
Mana Sakura (Mayumi)
Kirk Geiger (Vendenski)
Katerina Leigh Waters (Simona)
Tomm Voss (Benning)
Noriaki R. Kamata (Bar Manager)
David Sakurai (Japanese Swordsman)
Masaya Kato (Delivery Company Boss)
Take Sonny Chiba’s epic The Street Fighter, add a dash of Quentin Tarentino and Takashi Miike, with a pinch of Cannon Films, and you have this crazy martial arts action film from the director of Gun Woman.
Kenji is a bar busboy who has been supporting his younger sister Mayumi when she decides to study in the United States. However, he has not heard from her in over a month. The manager decides to give Kenji money for him to travel to L.A. to find her. Kenji’s frantic search at first leads him to a club where she was working to help herself as a hostess. After confronting that club’s manager, he soon learns the truth about what happened to his sister.
Mayumi has been kidnapped and forced into a deadly cult known as the Capital Messiah, led by the redneck Vendenski. Capital Messiah streams videos of crimes that are paid for by their viewers. When Kenji goes to a local bar in an effort to find his sister, he meets Keiko, a former Japanese soldier who had been once a victim of Vendenski’s group only to have lost her hand at the hands of henchmen Simona and Benning. Armed with a hook but still good with her sharpshooting skills, Keiko decides to help Kenji find his sister. Will this duo be able to find Mayumi and take on the deadly Capital Messiah?
Gun Woman’s driving force, Kurando Mitsukake, follows that film up with a martial arts action adventure that is meant to introduce a new star who goes by a single name: Hayate. Hayate is a martial artist who also is skilled in parkour and makes his debut here as Kenji, who finds himself determined to find his sister from the hands of a maniacal cult. Hayate actually is quite the martial artist with moves reminiscing of classic on-screen karatekas such as Yasuaki Kurata, Hiroyuki Sanada, and the legend himself, Sonny Chiba. Kenji doesn’t have many lines in the film and that’s totally okay as he is the quiet hero who lets his fists do the talking.
Former AV idol Asami meshes the Western hero with Japan’s sometimes insanity factor in her role of the hook-sporting shotgun-wielding Keiko, who goes from being a partner with a common enemy to a potential love interest while Mana Sakura doesn’t offer much except being mostly eye candy in the role of the kidnapped Mayumi. As for our villains, Kirk Geiger’s Vandenski may bring to mind some of the stereotypical bad guys from the 1980’s Cannon Films regime with pro wrestler Katarina Leigh Waters (whom many will remember in WWE as Katie Lee Burchill) and Danish actor/stuntman/martial artist Tomm Voss as Vandenski’s maniacal henchmen.
With supervision from Keiya Tabuchi, who previously worked with Mitsukake on Gun Woman, Hayate looks quite deadly when he unleashes his martial arts skills. In one brief fight against some club bodyguards, Kenji takes down a big burly African-American man with one punch, which itself leads to a stomach-turning fight against more thugs inside the club. However, the stomach-turning isn’t because of the level of violence. Instead, it is because Mitsukake decides to film this particular fight by setting the camera up on a platform that makes the camera go a full 360-degrees and if you don’t have a strong stomach for things looking like the loop de loop on a roller coaster, this is one fight you may want to avoid.
The level of violence itself can be stomach turning with the amounts of blood that spurts in the film. In the same club scene, Kenji takes on a Bruce Lee wannabe only to literally rip his ear out in true Chiba form. One fight that is quite interesting is a third act fight where Kenji takes on a Japanese swordsman played by Danish-Japanese actor and martial artist David Sakurai as they duke it out in the back of a moving truck to the delight of Capital Messiah fans.
In the end, if you are into anything from the likes of Tarentino, Miike, Chiba, and the good ol days of Cannon’s action films and want to see a great meshing of all these, then Karate Kill is a must see for your action/grindhouse tastes.
WFG RATING: B+
Dark Cuts will be releasing this film on July 18, 2017 on DVD, Blu-Ray, and VOD platforms.