This live action adaptation may not suit the faithful of fans of the original Japanese manga and anime. However, martial arts film fans will like this as one of the highlights of British action star Gary Daniels, as he displays some of his best kicking on screen.
In a post-apocalyptic future, the deadly Southern Cross Army, led by Lord Shin, has been wreaking havoc across the lands. As a result, many are left in dire poverty. However, there is one hope to stop the Southern Cross. The “hope” comes in the form on a wanderer. That wanderer’s name is Kenshiro, the only remaining exponent of the “North Star” martial arts school.
For Kenshiro, it is more than helping those victimized by the Southern Cross, but it is personal. Kenshiro and Shin, arch rivals for a long time, fought with Shin overpowering Kenshiro and not only left him for dead, but has taken Kenshiro’s love Julia. Julia has become Shin’s personal slave and even worse, Shin is responsible for the death of Kenshiro’s father, Ryuken. It is up to Kenshiro to bring peace back to the lands and stop the Southern Cross once and for all.
Upon viewing this for the first time when it was HBO in 1996, I knew there was an anime movie and manga, but hadn’t seen it prior to this version. While this version will not be exactly be pleasing who have seen the manga and anime before, the martial arts film fans will most likely get a “kick” out of it. Directed by Tony Randel, this is actually a pretty good martial arts action film that highlights the talents of one Gary Daniels.
Gary Daniels has been a fan favorite for years. His impeccable kicking skills are some of the best seen on screen. This shows some of his best skills yet and in addition, he pulls off the dramatic side quite well. When he executes the titular move, a series of punches that end with a shot to the head, causing the opponent’s head to literally explode, it is not bad. This is first seen when he takes on veteran stuntman Nils Allen Stewart, who plays baddie Zeed.
Costas Mandylor makes the best of his role as the evil Shin, the head of the Southern Cross and he is able to perform his action scenes quite well with Christopher Penn as henchman Jackal, who looks primarily nasty due to him having to tape up his face to prevent himself from the effects of the North Star. Isako Washio makes the most of her role as the kidnapped Julia, who spends the film as a true damsel-in-distress. Dante Basco provides much of the comic relief as Bat, a young man who becomes Kenshiro’s ally in the wastelands.
Winston Omega, Daniels’ real-life martial arts teacher, choreographed the film’s fight scenes and as mentioned, make Daniels and Mandylor look good. While Daniels is known for his awesome kicks, he gives Mandylor a chance to shine in the action department, emplying more of a Western boxing with dashes of perhaps Muay Thai from what it looks like. Of course, while Costas’ real life brother Louis is the more action-orientated star, Costas does stand out here as a worthy villain especially in the climactic showdown between Shin and Kenshiro. As a warm up to that finale, look for an awesome fight scene involving Kenshiro disposing of a slew of Southern Cross thugs with his amazing skills.
While hardcore fans of the original manga and anime will find disappointment in today’s age, Fist of the North Star is a pretty good 90’s adaptation which features Gary Daniels and Costas Mandylor as the top of their game as Kenshiro and Shin. Martial arts enthusiasts may just want to see this one, even if it is just one time.
WFG RATING: B-
Overseas Film Group present an OZ Motion Pictures production. Director: Tony Randel. Producer: Mark Yellen and Akihiro Komine. Writers: Tony Randel and Peter Atkins; based on the original manga by Buronson and Tetsuo Hara. Cinematography: Jacques Haitkn. Editing: Sonny Baskin.
Cast: Gary Daniels, Costas Mandylor, Christopher Penn, Isako Washio, Melvin Van Peebles, “Downtown” Julie Brown, Dante Basco, Nalena Herron, Malcolm McDowell, Tracey Walter, Clint Howard, Leon “Vader” White, Nils Allen Stewart, Tony Halme, Andre Rosey Brown.