Director: Shunichi Nagasaki
Cast: Akihito Yagi, Tatsuya Naka, Yuji Suzuki, Fuyuhiko Nishi
Running Time: 120 min.
By Mighty Peking Man
After their karate master passes away, two of his best students take opposite directions in life. Giryu (Akihito Yagi), chooses a more philosophical approach, practicing his master’s passive, yet effective, teachings on karate. Taikan (Tatsuya Naka), follows a more savage path, fueled by what he believes karate is all about. The two clash and duel it out, but only one will be their master’s successor and inherit his Black Belt.
If you ever decide to check this movie out, try not to watch it back-to-back with any other martial arts movies. If you do, Black Belt will expose just how light, unrealistic and cartoony those titles really are – all 99% of them.
If you’re looking for some over-the-top Tony Jaa/Jackie Chan/Jet Li type stuff, you won’t find it here. There are no guys flying around on wires, nobody flipping around on moving vehicles, and not a single elephant to walk on; The choreography in Black Belt consists of fights that appear to be as natural and realistic as they possibly could for the camera. As cut and dry as the sequences are, they’re so intense that you can feel the power.
The non-action segments of the film are simple and straightforward. I’m not the biggest Japanese film conessiur, but a similar title that comes to mind would be Kitano Takeshi’s Hana-Bi (aka Fireworks). They both have a calm, somewhat generic, but beautiful, feel to them. But low and behold, when it’s time for some violence, the viewer WILL notice.
One thing’s for sure, that scene in Fists of Fury – where Bruce Lee walks into a dojo full of karate men and kicks their asses with no problem – will never feel the same again.
Martial arts movies aren’t supposed to be this good.
Mighty Peking Man’s Rating: 10/10