Tag Archives: Tak Sakaguchi

Brawl of the Kaiko Empire

Bad City

by Daniel Baldwin

A modern celebration of classic Japanese V-cinema (their version of DTV genre fare), director Kensuke Sonomura’s Bad City unleashes a furious, fist-flying tale of crime, corruption, and righteous retribution. The story is a tale as old as time: a diabolical businessman (Lily Franky) is in league with the Korean mafia and local politicians. His goal? To bring “prosperity” to Kaiko City by bringing in casinos that no one but the rich wants. His methods? Bribery, blackmail, and murder. All that stand in his way are a handful of good cops and some honorable Yakuza with aligned interests.

At the center of it is 60-year-old genre stalwart Hitoshi Ozawa (Dead or AliveGozu), who also wrote the screenplay. His knowledge of and experience in Yakuza cinema comes in mighty handy here, as does his charisma and still-formidable physical prowess. He’s an absolute powerhouse as the unflappable Captain Torada and he’s surrounded by equally great supporting castmates including Tak Sakaguchi, Masanori Mimoto, Katsuya, Mitsu Dan, Akane Sakanoue, Masaya Kato, and the aforementioned Franky.

There’s nothing wholly original on display in terms of narrative, but that matters not, as Sonomura and Ozawa are aiming for grandiosity over complexity, even amidst their low budget. The plot is still filled with twists, turns, and double-crosses, but the pace moves with breakneck speed. It plows through subplots and arcs like it’s tearing through an entire season of television, ultimately offering up a narrative that is as dense as it is straightforward.

Any danger of monotony in terms of pulp crime storytelling and exposition is wiped away by the action itself. While there is the occasional moment of gun violence, the bulk of the fighting is brutal hand-to-hand combat. Fists, knives, baseball bats, pipes, and even a loudspeaker are utilized as criminals and cops wail on each other to the point of exhaustion. The fights constantly swing back and forth between martial arts, vicious groundwork, and barroom-style brawls. Said action is further punctuated by some absolutely stellar foley work, making each punch, kick, and stab sound even more painful than it looks. Throw in the fact that many of the characters are wearing sneakers – one has to be comfortable on the brawling move after all – and the bouts often sound like a massacre playing out on a basketball court. 

Simply put, this is a killer slice of low budget action cinema.

Last Action Hero


by Rachel Willis

How does one kill a ghost?

That’s the question at the heart of the mystery in director Yûji Shimomura’s martial arts thriller, Re:Born.

The film opens with teams of soldiers hunting a target. When the mission becomes compromised, their commander orders them to fall back.

But something is hunting these soldiers, dispatching them with skillful ease, moving in and out of shadows with inhuman speed. We’re given little information about the situation, immediately catching us off-guard as we try to keep up with what’s happening before our eyes.

The film crafts a fine balance between what we know and what we’re unsure of. Just as more pieces of the puzzle fall into place, new questions arise, forcing us to pay attention. When we meet main character, Toshiro (Tak Sakaguchi), we’re sufficiently intrigued. Who is this man, and how does he connect to the opening sequence?  

Toshiro cares for his niece, Sachi, portrayed by the utterly adorable Yura Kondo. Their relationship is interesting, as Sachi showers her uncle with effusive affection while he holds himself back. He’s not cold, but he’s detached. Toshiro’s brother, Kenji (Takumi Saitoh), adds another layer of mystery to the story.

As the movie unfolds, the tension builds. A group of men and women are hunting Toshiro. He does his best to shield his niece from these sinister agents, but it’s a web of danger that encroaches into his daily life. Backstory is layered on backstory, but the film manages to reveal more of the mystery surrounding Toshiro without added confusion. We’re never given all the answers, but that’s a good thing. Remove all the mystery, and you’re left with little to ponder.

There is a fine line between a great action movie and a good action movie. A great action movie understands the balance between fast-paced action sequences and slower moments that give the audience time to catch their breath. An action sequence that goes on too long starts to become wearying. This is the trap Re:Born falls into as one particularly long action sequence becomes tedious. However, it’s refreshing to watch choreographed fight sequences that rely very little on CG to enhance them. No matter how good CG gets, it will never replace the beauty of a well-orchestrated fight sequence between skilled actors.

Re:Born has many of the elements of a great action film. A captivating story and great actors make-up for the few flat moments. This is a film that asks you to pay attention and rewards you for doing so.