I am a product of the mid-’80s, which means I grew up in the golden age of the action movie. I am not ashamed to say that I will still watch any Jean-Claude Van Damme movie if it is on TV. I am also an avid horror fan, which makes me kind of an expert on ultra-violence. All that considered, I was pretty stoked to have the opportunity to review Karate Kill, and I have to say that the film lived up to the idea in my head.
I want to get the few negatives out of the way first so I can gush about all the things I loved about the movie. One issue I had with Karate Kill is that most of it is in Japanese with English subtitles. It did not affect the quality of the movie, but it was slightly frustrating to have to put effort into a movie that was made for a little mindless fun. The only other problems I had with Karate Kill were a few scenes in which there was super unrealistic computer-generated blood; it took away from a movie that was otherwise surprisingly visually impressive.
I was genuinely impressed by the artistry of Karate Kill. What could have been a cheesy action film throughout managed to slip in some incredibly artful elements, including visually stunning backgrounds and imaginative camera work. While some scenes were unrealistic, there were others that were hyper-realistic which could have a gross-out factor, but have to be appreciated considering that this was most likely a low budget film.
I think the thing that I loved the most about this movie is that it is a big ball of clichés that is self-aware without shoving it down your throat. Karate Kill seemed to be trying to hit on every single action trope there has ever been, and it seemed very much like they meant to do just that. However, they did it in a way that seemed very tongue-in-cheek. Though the film takes many ridiculous and unrealistic turns, it somehow manages to draw you in further instead of spurning your interest.
The whole thing starts with the main character, Kenji, following leads to find his missing sister. His search finally leads him to a cult with a Charles Manson-esque leader who goes by the name Capitalist Messiah. The whole thing takes a racist turn when the cult leader pits Kenji against other Japanese to celebrate the U.S. victory in World War Two. The movie takes yet another turn in the final act, which ends a strange movie in a satisfying way.
There is a little something for everyone here with a background love story, some subtle comedy, boobs, butts, and a whole lot of blood. There is not a scene in this movie that will not draw you deeper into the wonderful chaos that is Karate Kill. I have to say that I was a little surprised at how much I liked this film and would like to see more projects from the people behind it.