The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Fist of the North Star (1995)

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I saw this a long time ago, not long after it came out in the mid-90s. I didn't know it was based on Anime, or what I called at the time Japanimation. It may have given me a better understanding of its silliness, but I don't know. What I do know is I needed to revisit it considering this is the summer of Gary Daniels and Olivier Gruner.

Fist of the North Star is a post-apocalyptic film about a dictator, played by Costas Mandylor, who's trying to rebuild society through the use of an iron fist. He's also an accomplished martial artist, and he killed the leader of his rival school, Malcolm McDowell. Now it's up to his son, Gary Daniels, to take him down, and he has the added incentive of saving his woman, who Mandylor took from Daniels to be his wife.

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I've been holding off on this one because I just don't know exactly how to play it. On the one hand, it's not my kind of movie, because a lot of people have gross faces, and I'm not always a fan of that ridiculous style of martial arts where people's heads explode and whatnot. On the other, the martial arts isn't bad, and it has a very high silliness quotient. It was like it didn't do it for me, but it did, if that makes any sense. It's not like Hard Justice, where I was like, BAM!!, that's what I'm talking about. But it's not like some of the movies I hated, where I wanted to burn the disc. It's like Pizza Hut, where it's good, but is it better than that local pizza joint that just kills it, or the downtown gourmet place? No; but it's better than that scary stuff you sometimes see in a Chinese food buffet.

Daniels really gets to flex his martial arts muscles here, which is good. This was no Bloodmoon, but what is, really? I'm not sure how much I dig the dark colored mullet though. I guess the thing is he's kind of out of his element. I just see him as a cop with sick martial arts skills smoking myriad fools while making the ultimate drug bust. Stoic martial arts master with a grudge and a dark colored mullet just doesn't quite fit. According to imdb, he's playing Bryan Fury in the new Tekken movie. Though that sounds hot, I'd rather see him as Armor King, and, looking through the credits, they don't even have a King and/or Armor King. It must be because they were so dominant in Tekken Tag Team, the film makers felt like they'd have no film with them in it.

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I was going through all the tags I have, trying to pare down some of the ones that seemed a tad on the superfluous side. I found I had one for Costas Mandylor, even though he has only one film reviewed, Gangland with Sasha Mitchell. I think, at the time, I intended to review more of his catalog, and it just never happened. Now here we are, with film number 2. Again, like Daniels, I like him better as a modern cop with martial arts skills over a post-apocalyptic despot. What makes him worse as a despot is his character actually grows out his mullet. He talks about recreating civilization, and then he spawns this ape drape out of his head. The future will be business in the front and party in the back. Mandylor is busy now making Saw movies, and I believe, according to imdb, Saw 57 is in post production.

Club MTV's Downtown Julie Brown is in this as an engineer or something in a small village outside of Mandylor's city. I used to watch that show, along with everything else on MTV back then. Later it would become The Grind with Eric Nies from the first season of The Real World. Do they still have dance shows today? I never really got them. Usually my friends and I just picked out the silliest people and made fun of them for however long. The best was Ian from The Grind, who was their Alternative guy. He wore shaggy hair and US Postal Service jackets, and his raison d'etre was the one quasi Alternative dance track they'd play each show, usually "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys.

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I was trying to decide whether to devote this last paragraph to Malcolm McDowell, Chris Penn, or Clint Howard, all of whom are in this film. I went another route. Did you know John Cho, the guy from Harold and Kumar that wasn't Kumar, is 37 years old? Young Sulu ain't so young Sulu, if you know what I mean. Man, I hope I look that young when I'm 37. Seriously, 37.

Man, I don't know where to go with this. I don't think I've ever been so on the fence in the final analysis of a film ever. What I can say is, no matter what, this is silly as all hell. Good martial arts, some grossness, but not in a cool, Cyborg kind of way, and surprisingly nice set designs. It's just a matter of whether you embrace the silliness, or disdain it. And I'll take it a step further, if you embrace the silliness, you may want to go all the way and watch Riki-Oh.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0113074/

3 comments:

  1. Indeed, the brown mullet look doesn't suit Gary very well, but he did okay in this. I've never been too sure about this one either, as it's probably his biggest budgeted movie (@ only 2 million)and one of the better looking, but it doesn't have the charm of a 'Firepower,' 'Riot', or 'Bloodmoon,' which were all probably made for a 10th of this movie's price.

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  2. Yeah, Bloodmoon killed this. I've heard a lot of good things about The Rage too.

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  3. Excellent review. We just posted our write-up...we are in agreement. This was a waste of Gary Daniel's talent.

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