The Challenge (1982)

Rating: ***
Alternate Titles: "Sword Of The Ninja," "The Equals"
Review Date: 11/16/01
Director: John Frankenheimer
Music: Jerry Goldsmith
Stunt Director: Steven Seagal
Cast: Scott Glenn, Toshiro Mifune

Big, dumb, American tough guy Rick (Scott Glenn) gets tricked into escorting a precious samurai sword back to Japan where two feuding brothers will do anything to get their hands on it. One of them is Yoshida (stoic Toshiro Mifune), who is the rightful heir to the sword. The other is Hideo, a cutthroat businessman who tried to steal the sword back in 1945. Poor Rick is stuck in the middle with nowhere to turn. He eventually sides with Yoshida, because his daughter is a hottie and Hideo's men would just rather kill him. Everything comes to an explosive head when Yoshida and Hideo finally face off, and Rick brings in a little good ol' American know-how to top things off.

It's not a bad movie, but man is it tedious! The fighting and stunts are well done and sometimes shockingly and graphically violent. Where the film suffers most is in its tedious pacing and the typically offensive "dumb white guy in a foreign country" dialog that Scott Glenn is forced to regurgitate. And speaking of regurgitating, the film also dives into some sickening displays of animal brutality around the dinner table as Glenn and his newfound friends eat a variety of stomach churning Japanese delicacies. (you can tell that Glenn wasn't very fond of performing these scenes either) It's definitely an interesting cross-cultural film, and Glenn towers over everyone like a clumsy giant in the land of fish heads. It's pretty standard action formula stuff, but slightly smarter than most, and Toshiro Mifune once again proves that he's still a bad-ass and a force to be reckoned with.