A violent gang is abducting and killing women around Thailand. Sanim and his friends, having had loved ones abducted, have joined together to break the gang of kidnappers. In a botched ... See full summary »
Kazu Patrick Tang,
Keiko, the daughter of a legendary sushi chef, runs away from home when his Karate-style regimen becomes too severe. Finding work at a rural hot springs inn, she is ridiculed by the eccentric staff and guests.
A young man learns the fighting techniques of Sanda from a coach. The two become best friends as the young man prepares to enter an underground tournament, competing against some of the top fighters of the world.
As a tunnel construction project threatens the natural order of one of Japan's last untouched regions, an old man and his granddaughter Haruna's humble lifestyle begins to influence the outlook of a man from Tokyo.
To start things off in "Karate Girl" (2011), there's a murder and a kidnapping. Tatsuya Kurenai (Tatsuya Naka) is a descendant of the legendary Sojiro Kurenai, an Okinawan Karate master of almost mythical stature/status who was also the founder of the Kurenai-style of Karate
which is so deadly it can easily kill a person with only a single
blow. Tatsuya has trained his two daughters Ayaka and Natsuki in this style. At the beginning of the film, Tatsuya is murdered by henchmen belonging to Shu Tagawa (Keisuke Horibe), a vile gangster who wants Sojiro Kurenai's black belt for himself. He not only succeeds in killing Tatsuya, but he also succeeds in slaying eldest daughter Ayaka and kidnapping younger daughter Natsuki.
We later learn, 10 years down the road, that Ayaka (now played by Rina Takeda, star of the similarly-themed 2009 kick-'em-up "High-Kick Girl!"), now 18, not only survived Tagawa's attempted assassination, but is now a Karate master in her own right and is now the only known living Kurenai descendant around. She has been adopted by another family, and is forced to use her deadly skills to stop a pair of purse snatchers at the movie theater where she works part-time. As expected, the footage of her drubbing the thugs is caught on camera and soon goes viral on the Internet.
The news of this catches Tagawa's attention and he soon sends his Karate-trained thugs to deal with her and finally retrieve the coveted Sojiro Kurenai black belt once and for all. Let the martial arts fighting sequences begin!
One thing that really caught my attention about this movie was the amount of detail paid to the underlying philosophy of Karate as simply more than a form of self-defense. Much attention is focused on how Karate practitioners are trained never to strike first, only to react to a threat accordingly because, as we are later told in the movie, a well-trained Karate expert could very easily kill a person with a single well-aimed punch or kick. It is also clearly explained how Karate could also be used for protection, whether it be a person or an object or an ideal. This is why I feel that this film's director, Yoshikatsu Kimura, made a better movie than "High-Kick Girl!," which I also enjoyed but was ultimately disappointed by its third act.
I did not feel that way with this movie, directed by Yoshimatsu Kimura. Many will complain about the slow pace, but I find that great care was taken in showing that although Karate is mostly about self-defense (OK, that is its primary purpose, overall), there is a lot more to it than simply fighting. I have not seen this much attention paid to the underlying philosophy of a martial art in the movies since, incredibly enough, the American-made martial arts film "The Karate Kid" (1984). I find that when a martial arts movie gives us something more than just fighting sequences and actually tries to show the audience more about the art itself (italicized), it makes the overall experience a lot more enjoyable.
And in terms of fighting, this movie has many. Rina Takeda is a young and highly skilled martial arts actress. It is clear that she is developing into a real dramatic performer, in addition to a young female a**-kicker. She is also an extraordinarily beautiful young woman. She performs many of her own stunts (which do appear to be based on real-life Karate forms), which is about the most authentic thing about her various choreographed action sequences. They are quite extraordinary and beautiful to watch. The action scenes are actually a lot more brutal, too, than they were in "High-Kick Girl!". The only problem is that it suffers from the same predilection (as in "High-Kick Girl!") for slow-motion replays of the fighting sequences, hurting the pace of the on-screen action. Thankfully, this is done only minimally here.
"Karate Girl," I feel, is a better movie than its predecessor "High-Kick Girl!" and is just as ambitious in showcasing both the dynamic fighting and underlying philosophies of Karate. I honestly hope that Rina Takeda is on her way to America soon!
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