UK Release Date: 12th March 2018
Runtime: 100 minutes
Director: Yûji Shimomura
Writer: Benio Saeki, Tak Sakaguchi
Starring: Tak Sakaguchi, Yura Kondo, Takumi Saitoh, Akio Ôtsuka
Synopsis: A war veteran finds himself being hunted down by former colleagues and, when his niece is kidnapped, he gears up for a final showdown.
I’m a sucker for Asian action movies, whether it’s the bonkers violence of the Raid films or last year’s slightly overlong, but delightfully blood-thirsty Blade of the Immortal. Martial arts-inspired violence always pops in movie-land and, this week, the release of Re:Born on Blu-ray introduces audiences to a whole new brand of fighting invented solely for the film – zero range combat. It’s a style that embraces flying fists and slashing knives to create tense and compelling action.
The movie’s star and focal point is Tak Sakaguchi, returning to the screen several years after he stated his intention to retire from acting in order to turn his hand to directing. He plays war veteran Toshiro, who runs a convenience store while caring for niece Sachi (Yura Kondo). In a meeting with a therapist, he describes how he can “still feel that killer instinct” and describes the violence as “nostalgic” rather than terrifying. Out of nowhere, he finds himself on a collision course with Phantom (Akio Ôtsuka), who believes Toshiro to be the embodiment of the legendary ‘Ghost’ – an old battlefield legend.
Re:Born opens with the tension of a bloody sabotage attack on a military training exercise before juxtaposing that burst of killing with the quiet life Toshiro is living. It isn’t long, though, before Toshiro finds himself transposed back into the world of murder which was once his bread and butter. The film seems unsure about how to handle its dramatic elements, but mercifully moves relatively quickly into action, violence and knuckle-clawing intensity.
The close-quarters fights created by the trio of Sakaguchi, director Yûji Shimomura and fight choreographer Yoshitaka Inagawa, are a brutal delight. One early scuffle in a phone booth is frenzied in the best way and the entire third act sees Sakaguchi hacking his way through highly-trained goons in a forest. This is conveyed with breathtaking invention and almost certainly the most throat-slashing since Tim Burton‘s claret-coloured odyssey of violence, Sweeney Todd. Slow-mo is used judiciously and, when blades and bullets give way to fists and feet for the final battles, it’s every bit as bone-crunching and brave.
Re:Born is at home only when it’s depicting action, but there’s such a rush and sense of exquisite control to that violence that Shimomura absolutely sucks in his audience. There’s a sense of a video game structure to the movie, which builds through increasingly difficult henchmen to a ‘final boss’, but the white-knuckle thrills of the story are able to overcome its simple narrative style.
Not much to sing and dance about. There’s a fun intro segment from the filmmakers, but then just trailers.
Pop or Poop?
When it tries to be a meaningful dramatic movie, Re:Born stumbles as if wearing shoes that are slightly too big for it. However, as it moves into a final act packed with innovative and gripping violence, director Yûji Shimomura and his star Tak Sakaguchi come alive to construct something that feels as unique as it does spectacular. For this new brand of screen combat alone, this one is a must-watch.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.
Re:Born is available on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK now, courtesy of Eureka Video.