ExecutionerExecutioner is a 1974 film from Japan that houses some fun and light hearted humor/action with kick ass Japanese martial artist Sonny Chiba taking charge!

Chiba plays Ryuichi Koga, a young man who has inherited the Koga Ninja art from his ancestors.  With his parents dead and his grandfather teaching him, he is the only remaining Koga family member in the ancestry.  We see him training as a child, learning the many combative aspects of being a Koga Ninja into adulthood as he becomes more skilled.

Years later, Ryuichi is a bit of a gun for hire, taking dangerous jobs for cash.  He busts  an Aikido master out of Jail before being recruited to take on a job that promises a pay day of billions of dollars.  He works with a group of men to take down a Tokyo drug dealer, but things get interesting between himself and his partners as they all suspect each other of having selfish intentions.

They play little games with each other before eventually being forced to work together when D-Day approaches. They then become a solid team as they fight off many dangerous thugs whilst trying to accomplish their mission.

What did I like about this movie?

Action aside, the movie is quite entertaining.  Sonny Chiba plays a rather funny character, but his fellow team mates create a lot of funny situations that all compliment each other.

As one of the men Ryuinchi works with seems desperate to hook up with a woman involved with the team, we see him desperately making moves to get her into bed, and failing miserably each time.  Meanwhile Ryuichi is bring provoked and tricked by another man on the team.

They work together and when one member has some success, the other is there to take it right back from them in this hilariously dysfunctional yet elite group of men. Each time this happens someone is there to accuse the other of trying to take all of the money for themselves.

It’s a fun  light-hearted film in which we seem Sonny Chiba’s character working hard and never quite getting that payday he wants so badly.


The Action & Martial Arts

Not as violent as films like The Streetfighter, but plenty of action with the occasional bit of ridiculous cult violence, combined with crazy facial expressions and some pretty decent fight choreography for it’s time.

To be entirely honest, a lot of action reminded me of the pace of Bruce Lee’s fight scenes – with the stop and go rhythm he used in his earlier films.  Toward the end we see some big Bruce Lee style poses and movements, especially from the character Takeshi Hayato, played by Makato Sato.  We see him strip down to the black pants, as he seems to almost perfectly mimic Bruce Lee’s movements, poses and facial expressions in one of the film’s final fight scenes.

This is definitely one of the cleaner Chiba films around but it also is one of the most entertaining in terms of martial arts choreography.  It’s not a Hong Kong (after all, it’s a Japanese movie) style fight film, but offers something a little more loose…  but just as entertaining.

This is one of Sonny Chiba’s best examples of well performed martial arts action backed up by a fun story telling.

The Verdict?

A fun martial arts action film, well worth the watch for martial arts fans of all types. Nothihng serious, just a cool watch.

On DVD –

Region 1 (US & Canada)
The Executioner

More info on Movie Regions here.

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