This film is set in Naha, Okinawa, Japan. That's where Judge David Johnson was born. Seriously, we're not joking. Oh, wait, you don't care.
Bring the Ja-pain.
>From renowned shock director Takashi Miike comes this earlier work, a gangster smack-around filled to the brim with bullets, sex and karate.
Facts of the Case
Our titular bodyguard is as badass a dude as there ever was. He's part of pricey protection firm that hires out bodyguards to elite clientele, and his lethal karate skills and unflappable demeanor ensure that he's worth every yen.
Secruing Kiba's services is Junpei, a former Yakuza punk who fleeced his gangster boss for 500 million yen, got smacked around something fierce, then thrown into prison (before the Yakuza could finish the job). Five years later, he's freed, but still wanted dead by the gangsters. So he promises a hefty payday to Kiba in exchange for his services. Along the way, Junpei convinces Kiba to help him track down his girlfriend, whose loyalties are not yet clear.
And so it begins, an onslaught of Yakuza getting their asses handed to them by total karate stud.
This is a badass little movie. It's also my first Miike film. Yeah, I know he's got more f-ed up flicks out there and someday I'll catch them, but even though Bodyguard Kiba was a far cry from a gore and shockfest, it was, indeed, awfully entertaining.
This movie never stops, always surging forward, and barely pausing to give the characters a moment to catch their breaths. When Miike does lean on the brake, it allows for some lean, but satisfying, character development, specifically between Kiba and Junpei. But the guts of this film is Kiba throttling his opponents.
Kiba's a well-done protagonist, not good enough that he's boring and not anti-hero enough that you can't get behind him. He's got an edge and is pretty ruthless, but the friendship he forms with Junpei generates loyalty, even allowing him to deviate from the plan, a big stretch for the pro. Junpei just whimpers most of the time while Kiba does the dirty work, but the former's passion and commitment to his girlfriend sparks something in Kiba and gives him something to fight for. Well, that and the sweet payday that awaits, too.
But fight he does. And fight and fight and fight. The choreography didn't blow me away, but that probably has more to do with the karate style adopted in the film. Kiba punishes his opponents, not in well-formed kung fu balladry but with his balled fists barrel legs and forward momentum. The beatdowns weren't necessarily viscerally appealing, but they were brutal and, best of all, copious.
Better still, there's a decent story encapsulating all this sweet violence. Miike and the writers are able to inject more than enough twists and turns, including a solid betrayal, capped with a kinetic showdown in the Yakuza HQ. Thrown into all of that is a decent little rivalry between Kiba and his counterpart karate bad-ass on the police (who pitches in for some Yakuza smack downs, too). As for blood and gore—minimal. There's one cool little scene where one of the thugs flips out and cuts off his pinkie finger, but beyond that the sinew is minimal. Shock-scroungers drawn by Miike's moniker will likely not find what they were snooping for. If, however, you're into a hardboiled Japanese gangster flick, Bodyguard Kiba is an excellent choice.
The disc is underwhelming, though. The 1.85:1 widescreen transfer is non-anamorphic and terribly pretty, plagued by a "video" look. Only Miike trailers are found in the extras bin.
Despite the lackluster DVD presentation, Bodyguard Kiba is still a dope Japanese beat-em-up. Check it out if you're into massive amounts of Yakuza bitchslapping.
Not guilty Ka-Pow-San!!!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Media Blasters
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