Action Movie Fanatix Review: Fist of the North Star

A Legendary Warrior Battles Against The Forces Of Evil.

Starring: Gary Daniels, Costas Mandylor, Chris Penn, Malcolm McDowell, Isako Washio, Melvin Van Peebles, Downtown Julie Brown, Leon “Vader” White, Dante Basco, Clint Howard, Tony Halme

Director: Tony Randel

1995  |  92 Minutes  |  Rated R

“This is not a fight, it’s an execution.” – Lord Shin

Fist of the North Star is based on a Japanese manga comic book.  I have to admit that I knew nothing about the original material or the cartoon adaptation prior my viewing of the live action Gary Daniels vehicle Fist of the North Star.  I can’t say whether it stuck to the source material or not.

Kenshiro (Gary Daniels) is the last master of the North Star Fighting School.  Kenshiro wanders the post-apocalyptic world searching for Lord Shin (Costas Mandylor), the man who killed Kenshiro’s master, Ryuken (Malcolm McDowell), and kidnapped his fiancé, Julia (Isako Washio).  Lord Shin rules the city of Southern Cross and has plans to wed Kenshiro’s fiancé.  Meanwhile, Shin’s army, the Crossmen, have orders to track and kill Kenshiro.

Where to start…  The cast I suppose.  How incredibly random, yet awesome is this cast?  From Malcolm McDowell to Dante Basco (Rufio!  Rufio!) to Big Van Vader (It’s Time!)to the great Gary Daniels.  Not to mention Ron Howard’s brother, Clint, who I always remember as The Ice Cream Man (look it up).

Now, the acting is generally pretty bad.  This is what can be expected when you have a bizarre script based loosely on a manga, an inexperienced star and professional wrestlers.  It was a little tough to watch whenever there wasn’t a fight of some kind going on.

Even with the poor acting it doesn’t feel like a lesser release.  The overall look of the film was very nice.  It wasn’t incredibly original and borrows heavily from predecessors like Mad Max II and JCVD’s Cyborg but it still looks good.  What post apocalyptic movie isn’t borrowing from Mad Max?

Considering the attempt at an epic movie the fights are rather short.  They aren’t bad fights, they just aren’t as epic as they probably could have been.  Then again, Kenshiro and Shin are supposed to be heads and tails above anyone else in combat.  At least it didn’t resort to the horrible speed lines that are in so many Japanese animated shows and movies.

Kenshiro is able to perform a quick series of strikes which at first seem to not hurt his opponent at all but within a few seconds their head begins to pulsate and then explodes.  It’s actually pretty awesome and could only feel right in a movie like this.

Lord Shin’s finisher is an open hand strike where he first lights up his hand.  After being hit with this strike the victim has wounds open up and spray blood from their arms and chest.  Pretty sick, painful looking stuff.

The effects are way over the top but very cool.  There is a very comic-booky effect as a jaw bone is punched out of place by about 4 inches by Kenshiro.  There is also some really awesome gore effects in the flashback when Shin stabs Kenshiro with his fingers, causing Kenshiro’s signature torso scars.  Very brutal looking.

This is where this review devolves into completely random thoughts:

  • Who’s idea was it to cast a white guy in the role of a character named Kenshiro?
  • How great is Kenshiro’s mullet?
  • Anyone else feel that Dante Basco’s blonde flattop is a big step down from the multiple red Mohawks of Rufio?
  • Who in their right mind would where the bizarre brown leather jumpsuit of Lord Shin?
  • Am I the only one that thinks that Julia sort of looks like an Asian Winnie Cooper?

Well, this review has gone far enough.  Fist of the North Star isn’t exactly a great film.  It has some really fun, brutal moments and some times in the movie where you will be looking for something else to keep you occupied.  I’m glad I own it but I just don’t really see myself watching it all that often.