Movies From the Black Lagoon: The Executioner
Movies From the Black Lagoon
The Executioner - 1974,Unrated
"Mission Impossible" meets "Enter the Dragon" in this often humorous kung-fu fiesta that finds three men recruited by an ex-police commissioner to take on the ballooning drug trade in Tokyo.
The opening credits set the tone here as two fists flash in front of the camera and perform all manner of intricate martial arts hand maneuvers while a screeching vocal chants the occasional "hai-ya." The story, or cue mechanism for the on screen bone breaking, centers on a police commissioner who quits the force when he realizes that his superiors have been paid off by the Yakuza, or Japanese Mafia. It all comes about when a planned raid yields plenty of drugs and arrests but with no charges being filed. In fact, the officers who made the arrests are themselves fired. The disgusted commish decides to build a team of criminals to take on the drug trade and enlists a tough guy cop named Hyabusa (so tough he sports a Moe haircut and can punch a bad guy's eyes out of his head) to lead the group.
Next he recruits a Ninja named Koga (who can cling to walls, throw smoke bombs, and beat the snot out of you with his eyebrows) and a bumbling thief named Sakura.
Koga's test run is to bring Sakura to their hideout but that is complicated by the fact that he is currently lodged in a maximum-security prison. Iron bars prove no problem for Koga but the ninja tricks he employs are pretty lame and consist of using pepper to throw the dogs off their scent and breathing underwater with a reed until the guards pass by.
The next assignment Koga draws is to take out the top bodyguards for the Yakuza. Both appear to be American and they share a weakness for high priced call girls. Before you can say "Governor of New York" Koga drops in on each man whilst they're only wearing what God gave them. The ladies of the evening offer little resistance as Koga pounds their employers into pudding and one even accepts his impassioned thank-you when she drops a conveniently placed towel and accidentally offers him a glimpse at her wares.
It all leads to a final assault on the drug lord at his remote mansion during a celebration where all of the female guests are super models and security out numbers the guests. It's a classic brawl that sees Koga use every move in the Ninja handbook. It's a classic final duel that showcases Ninja and Shaolin fighting styles that result in just about everyone getting the snot smacked out of them to a chorus of high decibel shrieks and bone crunching sound effects that make every punch sound like it was delivered by a anti-tank gun.
This one works due to the lead performance and acrobatic hi-jinks of Sonny Chiba. This Japanese martial arts master shot to fame with the graphic "Street Fighter" series, which produced three films containing enough kung fu gore to choke a donkey. Here he gets to play it for laughs in several scenes and it mostly works due to his beetle brow and confused expression. The supporting players are all seasoned fighters with my favorite being a Chinese master who steps in to help with the final fight and pleads with his last breath to have the heroes continue to make his car payments while he moves on to that big dojo in the sky. If you enjoy the antics here then you'll love the sequel, cleverly titled "Executioner Two."
Best Line: "Your face does not look like you want to urinate or defecate."
Tom Doty will be emerging from the Lagoon to meet fellow genre movie fans at Borders on the August 21st. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org.