|REVIEW: It’s 1932. Japan has invaded Manchuria and the military is flexing its muscles with plans to invade lots more countries soon.
A military policeman commandeers a karate school to use as a barracks. Once he sees how skilled the school’s three students are, he tries to force them to teach their skills to his soldiers.
Only one of the students thinks this is a good idea.
And here we have the plot difficulty. Without this disagreement there IS no plot. But, on the other hand, if these three adults have been studying together (presumably) since childhood, by now they should have all understood, accepted and absorbed their teacher’s precepts that karate only be used for self defence, that the student never initiates the attack, etc., etc. It should not need further explaining at this late date. And if anyone of them had not accepted and understood that, then surely the master would have sent him away long ago, no?
Seems obvious to me........but, for entertainment’s sake, why don’t we just ignore the obvious?
OK. So..... Taikan does not accept his sensei’s ideas. He fights really well. But he fights really dirty, too. He really seems to enjoy hurting people. He is just totally, totally heartless. With the guys he has (again, presumably) grown up with, and everyone else, too. When it seems like fellow student Giryu has fallen off a cliff to his death, Taikan doesn’t care at all. In fact, he is so bad he seems a bit cartoon-like.
Of course, in the grand movie tradition, Giryu does not die. He remains loyal to the master’s teachings (the master himself died shortly after the first visit from the military) and is frequently criticized, belittled and called a loser and a coward for that very reason.
There are many impressive, well-choreographed fights with other people on the way, but of course we know that ultimately Taikan and Giryu must have a final showdown.
(The third student, Choiei, is injured early on in the film, so he just serves as a sort of conscience, Greek chorus and witness to Taikan’s badness.)
The film is very entertaining as long as you are willing to believe that the teacher would have let that viper Taikan join his school in the first place.