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Chokugeki! Jigoku-ken

The Executioner
Direct Hit! Hell Fist

Japan 1974
produced by
Sunao Sakagami for Toei
directed by Teruo Ishii
starring Sonny Chiba, Eiji Go, Makoto Sato, Yutaka Nakajima, Masahiko Tsugawa, Yasuaki Kurata, Michitaro Mizushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ryo Ikebe, Rikiya Yasuoka, Hideo Muzrota, Meika Seri, Koji Hio
written by Teruo Ishii, music by Hajime Kaburagi

Executioner

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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A few years ago, police Lt Takeshi Hayata (Makoto Sato) wanted to bust a drug ring that uses a diplomat's daughter as carrier, and since it's hard to get one's hand on persons with diplomatic immunity, he used illegal methods to try and get her - methods that only left 6 of his men killed and no success whatsoever. On top of that, he got fired from his job and is since working as an assassin. Now though, his former boss asks him to become the boss of a super secret elite team - consisting of Hayata, ninja Koga (Sonny Chiba) and klutzy Sakura (Eiji Go) to have another go against the drug cartel, which is led by Japanese Mafioso Mario Mizuhara (Masahiko Tsugawa).

Hayata, Koga and Sakura are soon successful at disrupting the daily business of the cartel, but Hayata soon realizes he has to keep his eyes open because Koga and Sakura repeatedly try to take off with the drugs on their own, and that he doesn't really pay them doesn't make things easier.

Finally, Hayata learns about a massive drug deal, and he sends Koga and Sakura to infiltrate the home of Mario Mizuhara, who's having a party to celebrate the deal. Problem is, Mizuhara has invited quite a few martial arts experts from around the world to make sure Hayata's crack team won't cause any problems, and then Koga is captured and used as a human punching ball for the guests' amusement. But Koga isn't that easy to beat, and then Hayata shows up with reinforcements, and after fight after fight, Mizuhara, upon realizing his game is over, throws himself off a cliff to his death, but not before destroying all his drugs - so Koga and Sakura get out of the whole affair victorious but empty-handed.

 

A rather disappointing martial arts vehicle starring Sonny Chiba: Sure, there is plenty of fighting here, and the fights are violent enough as well ... but the film just doesn't click, narratively, it sits rather uncomfortably between being a crime and action flick and being a comedy and (self-)parody, while its basic premise is little more than a hanger for fight after fight after fight. On top of that, the whole thing is carried by a pack of weakly fleshed-out characters: Hayata the man of honour is plainly uninteresting, Koga the superhuman ninja lacks any real character motivation, and concerning Sakura the klutz one only wonders why he would be accepted in an elite team of only three members. As for the film's directorial effort: There are a few times when director Teruo Ishii's predilection of the perverse and macabre does shine through, but that sits uneasily with the movie's simplistic action plot, and in all it's one of Ishii's lesser films and despite Chiba's star power/cult credibility a footnote in Ishii's filmography at best.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
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WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
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directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
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starring
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