Friday, November 27, 2009

Import/Export: Fist of the North Star (American)

If you are a fan of anime and its ilk, then you may already be familiar with this movie. Most of you do not like it one bit. In fact, two of my friends- one in particular- have been pushing me to do this one. Is it because they don't like me? Maybe. Or is it more likely that they want my peak level of cinematic rage directed at their object of hate? Probably a bit of both, but that's alright. This movie is based on the famous anime that features massive bodily dismemberment. Since this movie is not Rated X, you automatically know that you aren't getting the full treatment. Now, that said, the movie does feature more blood fountains that most of your kung-fu beat-em-up movies. The only other thing I will say is that the few points where this film really sticks to the source material also cause some odd problems. Without further delay, this is...
The film begins with a long-winded narration by Malcolm McDowell of all people. He speaks about how the world as we know it ended, but never really says how. You want to explain this apocalypse, guys? He is more focused on the struggle between the Southern Cross and the North Star. In a rare movie instance, he gets to narrate his own death. Don't worry- he gets to be all Obi Wan Kenobi here. His son is Kenshiro (Gary Daniels), who is a muscular white man with peperoni-shaped scars on his chest. I'm sure that there is a good explanation for some other movie. I should also mention that McDowell does not cover his accent (as a character named Ryuken) and Kenshiro has an Australian accent. What kind of crazy apocalypse is this? Anyhow, a man named Shin has become a dictator and established a force of Road Warrior wannabes to enforce his rule. They attack a small village (whose residents include Melvin Van Peebles and 'Downtown' Julie Brown) with their weird car/motorcycle things. The high point of their rampage is Clint Howard riding around on a motorcycle and shooting people, smiling the whole time. There is also a wannabe tough guy (Dante Basco aka Rufio) and his blind sister. You want to save someone, Ken?

After staying with a couple in the wastelands (the husband is character actor Tracey Walter), he awakens to find them being attacked by thugs. They are so powerful that they make Tracey go from standing to on the ground with no action! Ken bursts into action quite literally as he kicks through a wall and dislodges one man's jaw. He punches another man in the back and causes his chest to burst forward, but without any blood. The last man gets the Five, 1,000 Point Exploding, Head Technique. It looks silly and is one of the main points that pisses of the anime fans. Guys, there was no way that was going to look good. So Ken comes to town and uses his powers to cure the blind girl. Wait, what?!? Unfortunately, Ken/Jesus does not stay to help, so Bat (Basco) follows him around to convince him. Yeah, he's one of those characters. After two 'build up the town's defenses,' the villains return and meet no real resistance. It is not until the formerly-blind girl screams that Ken decides to go help. Don't ask me to explain how is supposed to be hearing that, by the way. To pad the film out, we get tons of Chris Penn scenes and cutaways to Shin being evil. When the plot moves forward, Ken kills a bunch of them (including The Man They Call Vader). In this fight, he does his really silly posing. Time for the big fight!

Our hero rides into Southern Cross and into the lobby of the building of evil. He proceeds to run into about forty no-name thugs and defeat them. Want to guess about whether or not they land a single blow? I didn't think so. For more padding, Penn is guarding Ken's girlfriend, who he thinks is dead. I should mention that Ken's scars came from an earlier torture scene where Shin poked his finger through his chest several times! Logic and physics are on vacation, guys! Penn chases her around and steals the scene. Meanwhile, Shin (in a weird apron/shirt) and Ken face off. The problem: the fight is never even. First, Ken beats him up (with spin kicks), then Shin beats up Ken (with punches) and then Ken beats him up again. He survives Shin's super special-effects punch- which causes blood to shoot out of his arm joints and chest- and wins the day. Fun drinking game for you: take a shot every time Ken does a showy jump-kick. Around this time, the girlfriend defeats Penn by taking off his head-wrap, which causes Ken's earlier exploding head punch to finish. Don't ask me to explain that either, please. The lovers reunite and all is well. Although, Bat is still dead from a knife wound. The End.

This movie is...well, not good. There are plot holes so big that Ken seems to have punched them, the acting ranges from dull (Gary Daniels) to over-the-top (Chris Penn). Shin (Costas Mandylor) is a very underwritten character who usually seems to be staring off into the distance. The writing on him is curious, as he seems to want to be sympathetic sometimes and just plain evil at others. It does not come off as deep- just bi-polar. Daniels could not act his way out of a bag, although I'm sure he could still flex his way out of one. The special effects are silly and not up to par for the gore you would expect from this title. As far as live-action adaptations of animes go, you can do worse. The big crime of this movie is not sticking to the source material in many key ways, although they make a *decent* movie at times. This movie could have worked if they had committed to the over-the-top nature of the story and given you some real gore. Oh wait, someone did that. It's called Riki-Oh! I'd rather just watch that movie again, thank you.

Next up, a film that leaves a big stain on Rudy Ray Moore's acting legacy. Wait- did I just say 'acting' and 'Rudy Ray Moore' in the same sentence? Stay tuned...


  1. Seals the deal for me, I will stick with my new secret obsession RICKY OH as well, and leave this one to the purists

  2. Honestly, this is worth a look if you want to see a different interpretation of an anime to film. They do a better job than most people give them credit a little.

    Mind you, nothing lives up to 'Riki-Oh,' not even 'Battlefield Baseball,' which I love.