Film Reviews:

Fist of the North Star

(Tony Randel, US, 1995)

The director of the second Hellraiser film, Hellbound, and creepy crawly horror Ticks returns with this American live action version of a Japanese manga (comic) and anime (animated) film. Kenshiro (Gary Daniels) searches a bleak landscape hoping to find Lord Shin his evil brother who killed their father (Malcolm McDowell) and stole Kenshiro's beautiful lover (Japanese actress Isako Washio). As Shin's men pillage and destroy any who attempt to stand in their way, Kenshiro arrives ready to put his brother straight and claim back the woman he loves. After the rousing and epic opening theme by composer Christopher Stone almost everything takes a nose dive. In what comes across as a uneasy blend of Mad Max, without any of that film's style and Mortal Kombat without the art direction, Fist... has a terribly cheesy, early 80s video fodder feel about it. The mediocre model work is forever shrouded in an inexplicable smoke which seems to exist simply to mask the poor effects.

The entire production is set-bound in the worst possible way. Sets are fine, in fact when used imaginatively as they were in, for example, The Company of Wolves, sets can enhance a film no end. But everything here is bland, flat and drably unoriginal. Director Randel clearly had to work with a severely limited budget (the motorcycles from Spacehunter, completely unaltered, turn up during the proceedings) but unable to exploit that, as some directors can, he serves up another claustrophobic hash as his did with his Hellraiser sequel. Potential viewers should expect dramatic limitation from the lead, Gary Daniels who may have a talent for body conditioning and martial arts but not acting. He can join the exhaulted team of Roger Moore and Patrick Swayze in the two expression range. Resevoir Dogs' Chris Penn appears as a nasty villain and gets all the pointless one-liners, and Malcolm McDowell features at the start in a cameo as Daniels' mystical father that probably took all of a morning to shoot. Only Stone's admirable score holds up throughout and is one of the very few reasons to watch this.

Rob Dyer