Karate Kill Movie Review
Karate Kill Movie Review Metadata
The movie poster for Karate Kill shares much of the same look and feel as most of the exploitation and grindhouse films of the time – central characters surrounded by women, explosions, soldiers, and vehicles. The quotes on the poster read: “He is no Mr. Miyagi.” and “From the director of Gun Woman.” This is director Kurando Mitsutake’s fourth film and it feels like he has nearly mastered his subtle, yet unique style. Where his previous film Gun Woman (2014) dealt with more visual gore, shootouts, and shock, Karate Kill feels more like a throwback to the underground ‘70s and ’80s martial arts films. Mitsutake is able to stay out of grindhouse territory because he never shoots over the top with gore – the kills are graphic, but not too much above and beyond the realms of reality.
Karate Kill is formulaic to the style and structure of the average western or martial arts film – a lone protagonist wanders from town to town searching for someone or something, and nearly everyone wants to challenge him to a fight. Kenji, played by Hayate, is searching for his sister Mayumi (Mana Sakura). Everyone he encounters feels the need to challenge him and the frustration and exhaustion can be seen on his face. Hayate’s acting and fighting style seems to resemble a mix of Bruce Lee and Jet Li – plenty of stares, few words, and a quickened fighting style. Throughout the film he masters the skills of dodging bullets and breaking swords. He is never shy about ripping off ears, poking out eyes, and breaking hands in order to keep his victories interesting.
Once he has severely injured a club manager (Noriaki Kamata), he is led to the den of reality schlockmeisters Capital Messiah, who specializes in streaming snuff videos, kidnapping, and making public threats. Their leader is Vendenski (Kirk Geiger) who resembles a hyped-up Charles Manson, Simona (Katarina Leigh Waters) who sneers a lot and wears an eye patch, and Benning (Tomm Voss) who dons a trench coat and believes in wearing plenty of eyeliner and hair gel. Their minions wear overalls with sacks over their heads and are experts at assembling and following orders. Vendenski gives Kenji his ‘Karate Kill’ nickname after forcing him into hand-to-hand combat with an opponent while both positioned in a moving semi-truck trailer.
Keiko (Asami), who has a prosthetic hook hand, becomes Kenji’s partner. She teaches Kenji how to dodge bullets and later becomes his potential love interest. As Kenji is more concerned over his sister’s well-being than becoming physical with Keiko, she is left to impress with her weapon-handling abilities and overall toughness. Strangely enough, between Keiko and Mayumi, it is Mayumi who endures more sexually compromised scenes in the film, including moments shared by her brother, Kenji. Awkward.
Stylistically, the cinematography is a mixture of medium shots, aerials, and close-ups, with a camera turning scene that bookends the film. Karate Kill is not life-changing, but it is 89 minutes of above-average entertainment that may be worth your time.