Re:Born (2016)

Posted in Reviews by - March 18, 2018
Re:Born (2016)

Versus star Tak Sakaguchi is in fine form in this stabby mercenary flick, allegedly his final martial arts project. It doesn’t quite feel like a swan-song; the sheer glee and exuberance exhibited during the relentless, brutal, throat-slicing fight scenes show a great performer still at the top of his game. Tak (alongside long-time collaborator Yuji Shimomura and co-star Yoshitaka Inagawa) created a new martial arts concept for the film, called Zero Range Combat, which utilises military-based tactics and close-quarter knife work. Its what gives the fight scenes a signature style, and as much as the action is entertaining and well-choreographed (not to mention fantastically edited), it also feels practical, or at least rooted in some kind of authenticity. This becomes particularly apparent when Tak and his buddies go rogue in the woods for the final act, in a section which could best be described as ‘Rambo with a shovel’. Up until that point, the film expertly sets up a moody, Jason Bourne-esque premise with absolute conviction. Tak plays celestial mercenary Toshiro, codename Ghost, who retires from the field to work in a shop and look after his niece, until his past catches up with him and a crack team of assassins are sent for his head. Haunted by flashbacks, he lives a battle-scarred, insomnia-filled, pill-popping half-life with a thousand-mile stare who may, or may not, be something bordering on the supernatural (his stamina is shown to be extraordinary and he can dodge bullets). His need to protect his niece provides the only hint of humanity in his cold-blooded demeanour. He may have been the victim of a brainwashing exercise as a child, but the story does little to fully expand on this idea and instead favours a fury of limbs and blades. The fight scenes are visceral and filled with nuance: he fends off a team of assassins in a convenience store in the same time it takes to heat his dinner in a microwave; in another great sequence, he fights with Mariko Shinoda in a phone-box to cleverly display the merits of his Zero Range Combat style. On the strength of this, we can only hope Tak doesn’t stay retired for too long.

This post was written by
Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a laptop in London, UK.

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