Karate Warriors (1976)

Genres - Action, Crime  |   Sub-Genres - Martial Arts  |   Run Time - 89 min.  |   Countries - Japan   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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This engaging yakuza-themed action film is a strong entry in the Sonny Chiba filmography. The story is basically a pulp fiction riff on Yojimbo but the borrowed storyline works well for two reasons. The first is the presence of Chiba himself. He projects a sense of effortless cool as he takes out countless bad guys with ease but also shows off his underrated knack for drama in a subplot where he becomes a surrogate father to the child of a sometime enemy. The other reason for the film's success is the energetic and stylish direction of Chiba film veteran Kazuhiko Yamaguchi. Not only does he give the film a snappy pace, he directs the action in a highly stylized manner that is truly captivating (one clever trick he uses is to show part of a fight scene in slow motion, speeding it up to normal for just a moment as a punch or kick hits its target). The end result is purely genre fare but Karate Warriors has an excess of style and personality that will endear it to fans of martial arts films and yakuza stories. Needless to say, it's a must for Sonny Chiba fans.