Fangoria Review of Karate Kill - August 22, 2016

By Kirk Geiger on Aug 23, 2016 at 06:29 PM in Kirk Geiger's Press, Karate Kill
Fangoria Review of Karate Kill - August 22, 2016

Movies/TV,News,Reviews | August 22, 2016 - 7:03 pm | by: Elijah Taylor | Comments Off on BiFan 2016 

There are some films that take a while to digest, to process, to parse. Sometimes it can days or weeks after a viewing (or multiple viewings), to form an opinion. Then sometimes, even that opinion changes with time, ephemeral and difficult-to-define feelings for a piece of art fluctuating based on moods and seasons. Other times, you can form a pretty safe assessment based on the first ten minutes, or even a trailer. In some rare cases, a film is so free from pretense, so upfront with its motives and influences, you can get a pretty good idea just from looking at the poster. KARATE KILL is one such movie.

If you like what you see in that poster, there’s a damned good chance you’ll enjoy Kurando Mitsutake’s KARATE KILL. To be honest, this writer was more or less sold by the title. My expectations, going into the film, were that a person or persons would be killed and that Karate would be involved somehow. The film delivers on that promise in spades.

KARATE KILL follows a Japanese martial artist, Kenji, as he searches for his sister, who has gone missing in America. Kenji is a man of few words, and many punches. His search takes him on an odyssey through the darkest parts of America, from seedy criminal nightclubs in LA to a cult compound in Texas. And along the way, you’d better believe he kills some fools with Karate.

The film is very much a throwback to classic ’80s martial arts B-movies. There’s been an ongoing renaissance of pop culture nostalgia in recent memory, with more and more genre films paying homage to their grindhouse predecessors of decades past. Often, this writer finds there’s a fine line for success with these films; too many winks and nods, and it can fall apart.

Karate Kill Poster

I’m happy to say that KARATE KILL is right in that sweet spot of absurdity done with sincerity. More than just aiming for a general “retro” tone, the film clearly evokes releases from The Cannon Group. It does so with such confidence and clear intent, the result is a film that’s hard not to love.

I find it nearly impossible to review a film like this objectively. The acting is, in places, ridiculously over-the-top. The plot veers between “thin” and “absurd.” But it’s exactly the kind of movie I’d have rented as a kid, based on the cover art, and been thrilled to find that it actually delivered exactly as many explosions as I was promised. For many, who know what to expect from a B-movie, Cannon throwback, the film’s merits will be judged on the strength of its outrageous action sequences. It’s fortunate that these sequences kick ass.

The movie’s star, Hayate, is clearly an immensely skilled martial artist. The physicality of the stuntwork and the technical proficiency of the fight choreography are much of what makes the film great. Highlights include an uninterrupted single take in which he fights five opponents, and an open-handed fight against an opponent armed with a sword, which takes place in the back of a speeding truck. Hayate’s style strikes a nice balance between looking flashy and looking brutally efficient. One can only hope we get to see more of his unique brand of Karate on the screen in the future.

All told, your mileage for a film like KARATE KILL may vary. Not everyone is going to find the same joy I did when the crazed cult leader starts chewing scenery, or when Kenji must learn to dodge bullets in a lengthy training montage. But if you like the promises of the poster, ridiculously violent Karate fights, or the Cannon films of the ’80s, see this movie.

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By the time Kenji finally karate kills his way to face cult leader Vendenski (KirK Geiger in a gleefully maniacal performance) you’ll be grinning from ear to ear.
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