Dragon Black (Japan 2015)

Rating: *
Review Date: 1/31/16
Cast: Mitsuki Koga, Asami, Rina Takeda

Ryuto (Mitsuki Koga) is a movie stuntman who turns to revenge when one of his friends is murdered by a Yakuza gang. He grabs a knife and charges blindly into a dive bar, only to get his ass kicked by a crime lord's thugs and his personal bodyguard. He manages to drag his battered self home, just in time to see his wife Momoko (Rina Takeda) get shot in the chest by more Yakuza enforcers. She inexplicably survives, but is in a coma for the rest of the film. Having not learned his lesson the first time, Ryuto gets himself a gun and goes after the bad guys again, only to laughably charge into battle without any bullets. After a fierce hand-to-hand brawl with hitwoman Asami, we find out that the Yakuza bodyguard from before is actually one of Ryuto's friends who is an undercover cop, and Ryuto's friend in the police force is actually a crooked cop who might be responsible for the whole sordid affair. Oh, the irony and angst. And then the movie abruptly ends with no resolution or closure whatsoever, in a sloppy attempt to set itself up for a sequel that will likely never happen.

It's a boring and overly talkative film that suffers from weak writing, low production values, and obvious budget constraints. I originally picked it up because karate champion Rina Takeda is featured prominently on the box art, but she only has a small supporting role as a meek housewife. However, in a hilarious break of character, she has a brief and spirited fight scene with Asami when her home is broken into, which turns out to be the highlight of the film. After that, she's confined to a hospital bed while Ryuto continues his senseless quest for revenge. Mitsuki Koga is a decent actor and a scrappy fighter, but his character is shallow and uninteresting, and the revenge plot offers little in terms of action and story progression. Action actress Asami wastes her potential as a hired thug and suffers from awful hair and an unflattering wardrobe. While her fight with Rina Takeda is pretty good, she definitely pulls her punches with Koga. This is especially unfortunate, because it makes the climax of the film sputter and die. However, even though the film is disappointing on nearly every level, it's still far better than both Asami's and Takeda's worst work.