In homage to the original Manga and the cartoon series, (not to mention the anime movie from 1986), this live action film starring Martial Artist Gary Daniels as Kenshiro is a much simplified version of the Fist of the North Star series.
As with the earlier events of the original series, Ken is looking for Shin to take back his fiancee Julia (aka Yuria). Shin, the Fist of the Southern Cross is building a massive city and empire in honor of Julia but her love isn’t returned to him as Shin nearly killed Ken to possess Julia some years back.
Ken has recovered though and is walking the land exploding heads and taking out rough gangs until he meets Bart and Lynn, saving them from thugs. Afterwards he cures Lynn of her blindness and eventually befriends them both. Eventually he heads toward Southern Cross City to face Shin and get Julia back – no doubt with the use of his fists and Hokuto Shin Ken.
A bit of an Awkward Retelling
The acting and general direction of this movie has been tied in to match the original series / anime movie quote closely (minus a lot of details), but it really just doesn’t flow well. The relaxed words of Ken become a little over acted when he first utters the line “You’re already dead”. From there the picture is basically painted – fairly cheap.
While Gary Daniels is a talented performer, I don’t think he was the best choice for Ken – his voice is much lighter and he seems less stern than the original Kenshiro. On top of that the universe displayed in the previous releases is so much larger and expansive where this movie seems much smaller – a larger budget may have helped with presenting the post apocalyptic world a little more, but you’ve gotta work with what you’ve got.
Due to it being live action, a lot had to be cut out. There’s no mention of Ken’s brothers Jagi, Toki or Raoh. There is one character who resembles Jagi with the straps around his head (stopping his head form exploding) but is of no relation.
Overall the story scrapes the surface compared to the Anime movie, and the characters just don’t seem to measure up. In saying that, if you’d never heard of Fist of the North Star before, it plays out like an ‘OK’ kind of movie. It’s all a bit B Grade but it does offer a few good fight scenes.
The Action & Martial Arts
Gary Daniels is a superb martial artist, and some of that shows with his fighting in this movie.
The finale when he enter’s Shin’s palace has him showing his stuff, performing impressive kicks and moves in some pretty well presented fights. He’s got the moves that’s for sure, and he’s definitely got the muscle to back up the look of Kenshiro.
But there’s some weakness there too. They tried just a little too hard to be true to the action of the original series. The high pitch yells and 100 fast punches you see in the cartoon are present here also but just look a little harmless and silly. But at least the blood and nature of the film’s action matches the original to keep purists happy – at the expense of high quality of action.
It’s not necessarily a bad movie, but not’s really good either. As far as real life adaptions of cartoons go this one is a bit of a fail. But Gary Daniels shows off some good moves. See it if you are curious enough check it out… but don’t expect much.
On DVD –
Region 1 (US & Canada)
Fist of the North Star
Region 2 (UK, Europe, etc)
Fist of the North Star [DVD]