The Killing Machine (1976)

Genres - Action  |   Sub-Genres - Martial Arts  |   Run Time - 89 min.  |   Countries - Japan  |   MPAA Rating - R
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The Street Fighter might be the best-known Sonny Chiba film on an international level, but the lesser-known Killing Machine deserves to be mentioned in the same breath with that outlaw classic. This film is a heavily fictionalized biography of Doshin So, a Japanese ex-soldier who invented the martial arts style of Shorinji Kempo. Those expecting a realistic biopic will be sorely disappointed -- So is treated as a totally heroic and upright avenger of the people and the plotline focuses more on brutality, action, and revenge themes than the internal life of its protagonist. That said, The Killing Machine never pretends to be what it is not -- it's a rabble-rousing martial arts programmer that caters to the audience's hunger for righteous revenge and heroism, and it revels in its ability to punch all the right buttons. Chiba, with his intense charisma and strong fighting skills, is the perfect leading man for such fare and delivers a committed, emotional performance. Behind the scenes, director Noribumi Suzuki keeps the surprisingly dense storyline moving like a bullet train, directing both the action and the melodrama with equal vigor, and giving it all a nice widescreen gloss. The Killing Machine may be a bit too bloody and over the top for the casual viewer, but it is a must for Sonny Chiba enthusiasts and anyone who enjoys martial arts fare at its heights of comic-book wildness.