The summer movie season of 2017 had a lot of big name releases. The new Alien movie, John Wick 2, the Blade Runner sequel, the usual Marvel MCU films and a variety of other stuff I want to see of a greater or less extent. Among those big name franchise releases is one that was on my list of 3 most anticipated films of the summer: Karate Kill.
Karate Kill is the new film that will have its US release July 18th and is the newest film from director/writer Kurando Mitsukake. If you've browsed netflix in the last few years you may have seen another one of his films, Gun Woman. If you watched Gun Woman, and like it, you are going to love Karate Kill.
After I watched a screener for Karate Kill a few weeks ago I have been trying to think of exactly how I wanted to approach this review. The reason for this is my reaction from reading some other reviews of the film around the web. I keep seeing comparisons to QT's films and style. This bugged me because it's a little unfair to the film in my opinion. Seems anything that is a bit of a mash up of genres these days is automatically compared to Tarrentino, when QT's style is a mash up of others to begin with.
So to get on with it. Karate Kill is one of the modern exploitation films that has become more popular since Grindhouse hit the theaters in 07 but that isn't to say it copies those films. It stands on its own as a damn good martial arts action film with a twist of modern western and horror. I have seen the description of "Canon film" used in reviews of Karate Kill and I have to agree with that. I know there is a certain idea invoked whenone uses the canon films description but in this case I use it with much admiration as I was and am a fan of those film with no irony. This film would have fit right in with that time and would have been one of their bigger crown jewels had it been a Canon release.
All through the movie we get hints at past 70's and 80's action and horror masterpieces: Cobra, Friday the 13th Part 2, Rolling Thunder, Kill Bill, Last House on the Left and more. While these are there and fun to note they don't bog it down. The film's writer/director is Japanese and it shows in the film in several of its humorous moments that only could come from a Japanese creator. And it does have plenty of good hyuks, even one that goes from dark to dark comedy to black, which is how I like my exploitation comedy moments to develop.
The story of the film involves the main character on a quest to save his sister from a Charlie Manson like cult that live streams its snuff films. His sister, Mayumi ( Sakura) has come to LA to start a career as an actress as so many have. Not finding success she takes work at a hostess bar to earn money and to pay for bringing her brother over from Japan to visit her. While working at the bar she is taken by the cult along with a co-worker to be brainwashed, then killed for the enjoyment of the crazies of the world.
Her Karate master brother Kenji ( Hayate) gets to the US and picks up the trail. He works his way to the location of the cult in a long bloody fight while meeting the only surviving victim of thecult who has escaped and teaming up with her. The hook handed survivor Keiko is played by the lovely Asami. You may know Asami as the lead in Gun Womanand in the awesomely violent, bloody gory fun fest The Machine Girl. Keiko sports a hook for a hand, a result of the torture from the cult that makes me think of Rolling Thunder and she is just as badass as the lead in that film. She helps Kenji master his bullet dodging moves in preparing for their combines assault on thecult's compound. At the climax we get everything you could want in an action revenge exploitation film. Blood violence, nudity, gun fire, blades and awesome kills.
The fight scenes in the movie are shot with steady shots without the quick edits and shaky cam garbage we have had forced on us from big budget "action " films that cost a lot more with big name stars. The fighting is well done and realistic. The martial artists are so skilled the fights are a real joy to watch. While not as non stop as The Raid, the martial artist is just as skilled and fun to watch.
Some really nifty camera work is done in one fight scene that was so cool I found myself smiling in glee. Later at the films climax we get a close up with blood spurting on the camera lens. Something I always enjoy. At some points of the film we are shown the view of the cult members as the film themselves using Gopros mounted on their heads. The strange steadiness that comes from a gopro while filming the maniacs is strangely unsettling and makes then crazy cultists seem more strange.
Karate Kill not only lived up to my excitement to see it, but exceeded my hopes. It is a blast. The story is a get right to the point, bloody revenge/rescue yarn and it comes out kicking from the start. Karate Kill is a film with heart without the hipster irony of some other stuff like Manborg or Machettte Kills, its fun and it's creator shows once again for his respect and love for the genre . . If you like independent exploitation films, marital arts action film in the style of 70's and 80's action films with plenty of blood with a Japanese Karate master version of Clint Eastwood you are going to like it. Certainly if you liked Gun Woman or the Director's previous films you will certainly love it. Karate Kill comes out on VOD and Bluray July 18th.
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)