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Bodyguard Kiba (1993)

DVD Cover (Tokyo Shock)
Director:
Takashi Miike Takashi Miike
Starring:
Hisao Maki Hisao Maki
Masaru Matsuda Masaru Matsuda
Daisuke Nagakura Daisuke Nagakura
Megumi Sakita Megumi Sakita
Shinobu Nagata Shinobu Nagata

6.1 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Genres: Action, Action Thriller, Gangster Film
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Review by Ginose
Added: March 12, 2010
Fuck, I fucking love martial-arts movies. Very little gets me as pumped as watching people beat the shit out of each other; I can spend hours just watching extended Bruce Lee or Sonny Chiba marathons without feeling a bit of remorse for the ten-hours I just spent on my ass (and I never have). There's not much to the genre, or just fighting genres as a whole, they're very simple, generally, in premise and provide a lot of simple-minded entertainment. Sure, some shine above others in most ways, be it in story, action or style, but they all have the same bottom-line of fun and violence making a dead-even line.

The biggest blow to martial-arts films, as a whole, had to be the 80s... particularly a certain little film called "The Karate Kid", and all the muck it brought to the genre, making the more mainstream, "dedicated" filmmakers want to attempt to blend the genre with various others, making horrible fucking piles of mush, most of which made in the U.S., and a fair share of those starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. These were notorious for saturating the original bottom-line with pointlessly over-choreographed fight-sequences and bogging it all down by an unbearably terrible story that no amount of good action could envelope, no matter how hard it tried.

This fuck-awful trend persisted WELL into the 90s, leaving a lot of unrecognized gems of what still WERE traditional martial-arts films in the dirt (this was much more obvious in the 80s, but there was also a far more open market for foreign cheese being imported and dubbed, back then making it at least POSSIBLE to find shit like "Revenge of the Ninja" amongst the stupid bullshit flooding the market) in exchange for shit like "The Quest". Well, I was heartbroken in those days, making a true effort to find some of the hard-hitting violence I loved so much, and this left me even more disappointed. Little did I know that the eastern half of the world was still making these wonderful films, even if I couldn't see them.

After stealing 500-million yen from his yakuza clan, Junpei gets the brilliant idea of stashing the money away and serving a nice, long prison sentence to avoid both the immediate recoil from the Soryu clan as well as any stifle he'd have with the law itself. Upon his release, however, he is picked-up by the group who take him to a docking warehouse, torturing him in an attempt to find their lost money, only to be stopped by Junpei's hired professional escort and bodyguard, Naoto Kiba. After a healthy dose of ass-kicking, Kiba escorts Junpei to Okinawa, only to have a published material, stating that he had claimed Daito Karate is far superior to Okinawan Karate, of course no Okinawan martial-artist can let this slide, so, as these things often go, everyone is out to prove Kiba's alleged statement wrong, all the while, the Soryu group is tailing the trio (the two accompanied by Kiba's beautiful student, and assistant, Miko), hoping to catch them at any turn, and, eventually, turn out with a few surprising trump-cards they've been keeping ready to this day.

Like I said, martial-arts movies are the shit, and this one is no exception. It's got all the workings of a great karate-film, with hints of gangster-movie scattered all throughout with a refreshing taste; plenty of violence, drug-usage and sexual abuse to keep anyone happy, in terms of gritty action-movie fare, as well, not to mention the random an unspecified karate fights that seem to drop from nowhere. It's a truly great action film, to be certain, but as anything else it truly just flounders in mediocrity. The story, overall, is very dry, and riddled with the early 90s action film-clichés that make it feel as if you've heard it before, many, many times. Though, some twists to the plot are interesting enough, it still all moves far too mechanically to take on any serious merits is actually has few as they are.

The acting is sub-par, as well, but I suppose that matters little when you're just going to see it for the bad-ass fighting, violence and sex, but it doesn't help matters when the only characters you're expected to sympathize with are as poorly developed as they are performed. Though maybe they don't hold acting to the height of degree that Hollywood does, but not every Japanese video company can afford Steven Segal or any of his multi-talented fighter-cum-actor contemporaries.

It's all a matter of premise over budget, and it succeeds remarkably, there. The film itself is very well-assembled, and even looks great and it succeeds everywhere it tries to, and sticks to conventions in just the right way, all throughout. I praise any film that refuses to put on airs and "Bodyguard Kiba" certainly doesn't do that, which makes the low-budget glow in a strangely positive light, considering the excellent pacing, assembly and level of intelligence that clearly went into making this decently ridiculous film.

At the end of it all, however, "Bodyguard Kiba" is a damned good film, and almost as badass an adaptation of the comics as Sonny Chiba's own venture into the titular role. It's nothing spectacular, it's nothing terribly memorable, but it is a helluva lot of fun, and definitely has that spark and charms that modern martial-arts cinema seems to have left behind.

7.2/10.
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