The Challenge at the IMDb
East meets West now in this 1982 action thriller, which was a lot better than I anticipated.
Scott Glenn stars as Rick a down on his luck boxer - but we know he’s still got it when he KO’s the smart mouth champ he’s meant to be sparring with. His skills attract the attention of a wheelchair bound Japanese businessman who for some reason finds his employees in back street gyms. He offers Rick $500 dollars a day for taking an antique sword back to Japan. The sword’s ownership is sorely contested by two brothers and by entrusting it to Rick he hopes it can be delivered without incident - haven’t these people heard of Royal Mail special delivery?
As expected, things don’t go smoothly with Rick being intercepted at the airport - what a rubbish plan! Rick’s captor is a westernised Japanese thug who is tasty with his knife and has a nice line in casual swearing. He soon finds out that Rick is a decoy as the sword in his golf bag is a fake. Careful not to upset his boss the thug grabs the wheelchair man and shoves him out onto a road and off a bridge that wasn’t designed for wheelchair access. With the deception exposed and paymaster lost Rick has to wonder who is going to sign his expenses chitty.
He meets the evil big boss and is offered $15,000 if he can get in with the nice brother and steal the sword back when the opportunity arises. Rick agrees and after some training in the martial arts he gets his chance. His honour gets the better of him however, and after looking at the nice engravings he takes it back only to be greeted by the master - he saw Rick’s good character all along!
The sensei looks after Rick and trains him in the old ways of stick, sword and throwing stars. The other brother is a total dick with a big lair and loads of goons with guns - frankly I think the baddie has the better idea! Rick falls for the master’s foxy daughter and after a few run ins with the bad guys they decide to take the fight to the leader’s lair to reclaim their sword and their honour. Can the sword beat the gun and will the family be healed? Will that order for new hats be a waste and will Rick achieve redemption?
Directed by John Frankenheimer this was a superior ‘fish out of water’ movie that had plenty of action as well as some intelligent commentary on culture clashes and the old meeting the new. It was a lot like ‘The Last Samurai’ with the two brothers at opposite ends of the moral and weaponry spectrums. As with all these kind of films there is a lot of chatter about ‘honour’ and ‘loyalty’ and it’s wasted as they all end up stabbing each other in the back - it’s just like the Klingons!
The action was great however and the assault on the bad guy’s lair was like something out of a James Bond film with endless henchmen being mercilessly dispatched. The main bad guy and his helper got great send offs with the effects equal to the gore.
Scott Glenn isn’t the most enigmatic of actors but he does well here with his rite of passage from loser to hero well documented. He spends five days in a hole eating bugs and comes out of it none the worse and he nails the hot daughter to boot! The settings were all authentic and although the frenetic last 20 minutes was out of kilter with what had gone before it meant the film ended on a high.
The film was a lot like earlier Definite Article subject ‘The Yakuza’ with many of the same scenes present and correct. It was however a more enjoyable and fulfilling movie that had a satisfying mix of sex , violence and a man eating cockroaches and it is certainly this blogger’s ‘Round Eye in Japan’ film of choice.
81% Best Bit - I’ll get my hat - wait, don’t bother