ou would think you're in safe hands with the
creative team behind "Hellraiser
II" working on the live action version of "Fist of the North
Star", but you'd be wrong. Incoherent and working from a weak script,
"Fist of the North Star" is a shadow of the superior anime that
The film takes place on a
post-apocalyptic Earth, where two schools of martial arts have risen: the
North Star and the Southern Cross. As the movie begins, the evil Lord Shin
(Costas Mandylor), leader of the Southern Cross, has assassinated the head
of the North Star school and seized control over the population. Terrorizing
the populace with his marauding gangs, Shin schemes to rebuild a metropolis
to rule over.
But all hope is not lost, for a savior walks the
wilderness. Kenshiro (Gary Daniels), the son of the murdered head of the
North Star, has decided to stop conversing with his deceased father and
get on with the business of saving humanity. Armed with a mastery of
martial arts and the ability to make people explode, Kenshiro sets out to
stop Lord Shin.
Why Gary Daniels was cast as the lead is anyone's guess. The role requires
emotional depth, introspection, and superior athletic ability. Daniels
only brings the last part, and as a result spends most of the film looking
bland with really bad hair. Costas Mandylor fares better as Lord Shin, but
still looks miscast as the villain. Perhaps if they swapped roles, things
might have turned out a little better.
Malcolm McDowell is good as Ryuken, the former head
of the Southern Cross; the only problem is that since he's dead, there's
not much for him to do. Chris Penn, as the leader of Lord Shin's gang,
steals most of the scenes he's in. Penn gives the role a charismatic spin,
and is one of the highlights of the film. Former MTV VJ Downtown Julie
Brown shows up as a feisty rebel and trying to stretch her 15 minutes of
fame into something significantly longer. Her efforts aren't appreciated.
Writer Peter Atkins (the "Hellraiser"
films) knows how to handle Cenobites, but can't seem to get a firm grasp
on "Fist of the North Star". His script is populated with bad
dialogue, clichéd situations, and anti-climactic moments. At least he
provides a decent amount of fight scenes, so the viewing experience isn't
a total loss. As for the direction by Tony Randel, he acts like he can't
decide what kind of movie to make. Things swing back and forth between
martial arts film and post-apocalyptic movie so much that "Fist of
the North Star" starts to look like it was made up of two films that
got mixed up in the editing room. Randel does spread the gore on
outrageously thick, so gorehounds should be pleased.
Unfortunately, between the poorly conceived script
and the confused direction, "Fist of the North Star" is very
hard to follow unless you're familiar with the source material. The other
saving grace is the cinematography by Jacques Haitkin, which is
beautifully done. If there was ever a post-apocalyptic future, hopefully
it will look as good as it does here. Under the supervision of Tom Ceglia,
the special effects come off well and look authentic enough to be
believable. The fight scenes are also well choreographed by Winston Omega,
and are full of kinetic energy and realistic brutality.
"Fist of the North Star", despite some good efforts, is best
described as a failed endeavor. Unfortunately focusing on the good is like
looking at the bright side of a disaster, and it's best to forget this
film and move on.