Alternate Title: Roaring Fire
Review Date: 5/21/19
Cast: Hiroyuki Sanada, Etsuko Shiomi, Sonny Chiba, Mikio Narita, Abdullah The Butcher, Masashi Ishibashi
"Heroin is the ancient assassin of morality and conscience."
I wonder if drugs may have affected the filmmakers as well. Joji (Hiroyuki Sanada) was kidnapped as an infant and raised as a cowboy in Texas. When his twin brother is gunned down in Hong Kong, he returns to Japan to reunite with his biological family that he never knew. Unfortunately, both of his parents recently died in a plane crash and his sister Chihiro (Etsuko Shiomi) has been blind since she was a child. Her uncle (Mikio Narita) currently presides over the family estate, but he's a devious Nazi-loving drug dealer with political ambitions. It doesn't take long for Joji to stumble into trouble, and he spends most of the film running away from people who want to kill him. He also has a pet monkey named Peter, who causes trouble by stealing girls' bikini tops.
The film is completely ridiculous and would be a total waste of time if it weren't for Hiroyuki Sanada's boyish charm and amazing stunt work. He's extremely quick and nimble, and his fight scenes are powerful and effortlessly graceful. He's poetry in motion and mesmerizing to watch. Seeing the lovely Etsuko Shiomi as a blind girl is embarrassing and pointless, although she does have one fantastic fight scene against a group of bad guys. Sonny Chiba is cringe-worthy as a silly ventriloquist/illusionist named Mister Magic, although he appears to be thoroughly enjoying himself. He has one intense fight scene towards the end of the film when he reveals his secret identity, which is arguably the highlight of the show. It's interesting to compare and contrast Chiba's and Sanada's fighting styles, as Chiba is much more rough and dirty.
The film is unfortunately bogged down with zany comic book humor, which makes it difficult to watch. A pool-side tussle with Canadian wrestler Abdullah The Butcher is appallingly stupid, but the most outrageous and jaw-dropping scene is a wacky ninja bicycle chase. There's also a scene where a nun gets knocked down and exposes her naughty red lace panties. As far as pure tastelessness goes, Joji and one of his female friends are sentenced to an "Auschwitz Honeymoon" when they get gassed in a prison cell by a dominatrix wearing a red vinyl halter top. And then there's the scene where Joji manages to knock a helicopter out of the sky with a well-placed tomahawk.
The stunt work is quite impressive and includes a lot of rappelling down buildings, which must have been popular at the time. What's most interesting is that the stunts and overall tone of the film are very reminiscent of what Jackie Chan was doing several years later. I wouldn't be surprised if this film inspired his first two "Police Story" movies. While it may have historical and/or cultural significance, fans of Sanada, Shiomi, and Chiba might want to look elsewhere for their kicks.