Karate for Life (1977)

Genres - Action  |   Sub-Genres - Martial Arts  |   Run Time - 90 min.  |   Countries - Japan  |  
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The final entry in Sonny Chiba's "Masutatsu Oyama" trilogy isn't as inspired or consistently outrageous as his internationally known hits, but it still sizes up as a solid martial arts programmer. The plotline offers a unique setup -- Chiba finds work as a wrestler in Okinawa after being kicked out of martial arts associations in the mainland -- but the script settles for recycling the melodrama of The Killing Machine and the brutal brawling from The Street Fighter. The finale even pinches a crucial bit of business from the finale of Enter the Dragon! That said, the film is likely to entertain genre fans despite such derivative touches. Chiba grounds the film with his trademark tough-guy-with-a-heart persona (and his brutal fighting skills), and the story doesn't skimp on karate-heavy skirmishes -- the most entertaining is a scene in which Chiba takes on an entire karate school by himself. Better yet, director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi directs the action with a sharp, visually inventive touch, deploying unusual angles, unexpected freeze frames, and manipulation of film speed to highlight the action choreography. Ultimately, Karate for Life is mainly for Chiba enthusiasts, but they will find plenty to enjoy during its running time.