Directed by-Shunichi Nagasaki.
Starring-Akihito Yagi,Tatsuya Naka and Yuji Suzuki.
Well i just managed to see the awesome film that is Black Belt, Released in Japan in 2007 it's great to see that it's finally getting a UK DVD release on August 8th.
To be honest i had not heard anything of this film until i recently saw a 4/5 review of it in Empire magazine describing it as the best martial arts film to be released this year so i thought i HAVE to see this!
Set in the 1930's it captires this period perfectly with the rise of the Japanese army looking to recruit anyone they can and especially martial artists for hand to hand combat, the story starts in a simple Dojo in the Japanese mountains with the Sensai putting his pupils through the daily routine of there chosen form of Karate, the film opens up with some breathtaking cinematography of the hillside and waterfalls, the perfect setting.
The sensai is training up them to see which one will be his rightful succesor and take on his Black Belt, we then see the arrival of the Japanese soldiers looking to order the shut down of the dojo and take the pupils into war and train the others in Karate.The scene unfolds brilliantly with a fight with 2 of the pupils who are told just to defend the attack and not attack back, needless to say the soldiers have no chance but with honour the do not attack back just defend, tis is where the main general is floored and asks the pupil to finish him, but with the strict law he doesn't and the general cannot with the shm of loosing we find out later has committed hararakari.
Unfortunately the sensai passes away and the pupils are embroiled against there will to enrol into the army that brings up a ton of maoralty questions between the as to what is right and what is wrong.
The film unfolds with all the morals and honour that you would expect from the Japanese at this period of time and plays out brilliantly with twists and turns that you never see coming which adds massivley to the over all authentic feel of the movie.
I won't go onto to spoil the movie but needless to say as the press release says there are no CGI no wire work or special FX it's all full on hand to hand combat and to be honest i rewound it a couple of times thinking to myself that someone must have been hurt at somepoint!
It all comes to a great finale where the film switches to black and white the back to colour that is done with awesome effect ala Tarantino's classic Kill Bill,Earlier this year i got to see the Donnie Yen classic IP Man which in turn got me to re-watch other classic such as Once upon in china, Dragon tiger gate, Iron monkey to name but a few and i would definately reccomend this one to be up there with the all time greats.
8/10 Jonny T.
“A THINKING PERSON’S MARTIAL ARTS SAGA… DEFTLY BALANCES THE YIN AND YANG OF VIOLENT CONFRONTATION AND MORAL REFLECTION.” – VARIETY.Set to do for karate what “Ong Bak” did for the martial art of Muay Thai, Black Belt takes a “no wires, no CGI, no special effects” approach to portray the real bone-crushing force of hand-to-hand combat in uncompromising fashion.
Directed by Shunichi Nagasaki (Heart, Beating In The Dark; Shikoku) and starring leading Japanese black belt karate experts Akihito Yagi (High-Kick Girl), Tatsuya Naka (High-Kick Girl) and Yuji Suzuki (Godzilla: Final Wars), Black Belt has been hailed as one of the most authentic and powerful feature film depictions of karate ever.
The year is 1932 and in Japanese occupied Manchuria corrupt military forces have begun taking over the karate dojos for their own future benefit. Amidst this chaos, the master of one such dojo dies before passing on the “Kuro-obi” to a worthy successor, instead leaving it the hands of one of his apprentices, who must decide who deserves it most. After burying their master, the three most likely candidates are forced from their dojo and into the employment of the military to serve as martial arts instructors. Their individual responses to their fates lead each man on a vastly different and very personal path, at times pitting the former colleagues against each other as they seek the true understanding of their master’s teachings.
The deep-rooted values of honour, loyalty and friendship are all put to the test as the competition to become the next deserved recipient of the prestigious “Kuro-obi” intensifies, ultimately leading to a brutal showdown that holds potentially tragic repercussions for all those involved.
A martial arts movie with both brains and brawn, Black Belt will appeal as much to art house audiences as it will to action movie fans looking for something a little bit more cerebral that the usual fight flick fare.
Black Belt (cert. tbc.) will be released on DVD (£15.99) by MVM on 8th August 2011.
Stills from Black Belt.