June 7, 2017

Movie Review: Karate Kill

Sometimes I long for the action movies of yesteryear. You remember, the action films that were not always preoccupied with global scale plots and an overabundance of CG effects. This is what makes films like the John Wick series so welcome. Those are films that keep the focus on the execution and entertainment value. If you dig into independent cinema,you can find what you are looking for, even if it does take awhile. The movie in question here is Karate Kill. Described as Tarantino meets Cannon, it is at apt description. The film sits firmly in the revenge action/exploitation corner of the universe.

I really had no idea what to expect when I started the movie up. It has a curious title, poster art reminiscent of a Cannon films release. Outside of that I had little to go on. It has no star power, with the biggest names probably being former WWE performer Katarina Leigh Waters (Katie Lea Burchill). The film was written and directed by Kurando Mitsutake who made a bit of a splash a few years ago when his film Gun Woman (starring former adult star Asami) was released. I have not yet seen that one, but based on what I see here, I need to check it out.

As I mentioned, Karate Kill is a straightforward revenge film that sits firmly within the world of exploitation. In both of these regards, the movie is quite successful. While Karate Kill maintains a certain level of seriousness, it operates on a level of over the top absurdity that counteracts the darkness of the tale being told. I can honestly say that I was firmly involved with the story as it progressed and rather entertained by the strong execution.

At the center of the tale Kenji (Hayate), to support his younger sister's studies in the US, he takes a number of part time jobs. One day his sister disappears and being the dutiful brother that he is, Kenji hops a plane to Los Angeles in hopes of finding out where she went. Upon arriving stateside, Kenji finds the locals a little less than forthcoming with any worthwhile information. Of course, this leads to him showing off his karate skills, which are formidable.

The movie really takes off when he learns she has been abducted by a Texas based cult called the Capital Messiah, a group the essentially sells all sorts of unsavory videos online, snuff, torture, rape, and any other sick and depraved stuff you can think off. So, off Kenji goes to rescue his sister from this depraved cult.

Karate Kill is super violent and at times quite graphic. The violence is kicked up a notch when Kenji is joined by a shotgun toting cult escapee (Gun Woman's Asami). Thing about this movie is that there really is not much to it. It is refreshingly uncomplicated and plays the serious/absurd line perfectly. It also has a slightly different feel from what I am used to. Being made by a Japanese filmmaker, it has a different sensibility, likewise the filming is half in Japanese and half in English.

This is a movie that just works. It is familiar, yet has a certain freshness to it. It was made with minimal CG intrusion (although there is some) and has a high amount of energy. The performances are in line with what you would expect, with Hayate turning in good work in his first film role. It probably helps that they kept his dialogue to a minimum, letting him build intensity through his physical performance.

Karate Kill is a movie worth checking out. I admit to being surprised by it, pleasantly I might add. This may not be a classic, but it is one that delivers the goods. If you like martial arts action, revenge films, or exploitation in general, do yourself a favor, give this a shot.

Karate Kill will be released on Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD on July 18, 2017.

Highly Recommended.

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