Karate Warriors (Japan 1976)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 2/23/14
Cast: Sonny Chiba, cameo by Etsuko Shiomi

Two rival gangs are competing for dominance, and karate fighter Sonny Chiba gets in on the action in order to make some quick cash. In a nod to "Yojimbo", he's also intent on keeping the two groups fighting each other so that he can reap the benefits. The main conflict revolves around a hidden stash of heroin, and everyone thinks that the others are lying about its location. Chiba takes advantage of everyone's greed and mistrust, which ultimately leads to their ruin. A rival's young son is also involved, which complicates things and makes for an unnecessarily long and melodramatic ending. Chiba performs some really good fighting and swordwork, but overly shaky camera work spoils the enjoyment of it. Slow motion shots do a nice job of highlighting his proficiency and physical grace, while making the other stuntmen look sloppy. It's not as bloody as some of Chiba's earlier work, but his intensity and enthusiasm make up for it.