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Fist Of The North Star
cast: Gary Daniels, Costas Mandylor, Chris Penn, Melvin Van Peebles, and Malcolm McDowell

director: Tony Randel

88 minutes (18) 1995
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Medusa DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 3/10
reviewed by Debbie Moon
In a post-apocalyptic world, a martial arts school called Southern Cross has seized control and is rebuilding civilisation with vague promises and brutal violence. Mankind's only hope is the last remaining champion of an opposing school, Kenshiro, Fist of the North Star. Unfortunately, he's a wanderer, trying to avoid his destiny and his visions of his murdered father. Only when a couple of vulnerable children, members of a threatened free community, cross his path does he realise that his fate cannot be avoided...
   Yes, it's Mad Max with kung fu - right down to the customised vehicles and leather bondage gear. However, it doesn't seem to have the budget or the imagination of Mel Gibson's breakout movie. Even for a kung fu movie, the narrative is startlingly chaotic, jumping between past and present, reality and symbolic montage - possibly an attempt to recreate the style of the manga it's based upon, but a rather misguided one.
   As our hero, Gary Daniels postures well, but acts like he's sight-reading from the autocue. Though even the great Malcolm McDowell, as old dead dad, is phoning it in, so who can blame him? Evil overlord Costas Mandylor tries to inject some menace, but it's hard to be scary when you're playing someone called Lord Shin. (Screenwriting rule #527 - don't name your characters after parts of the body´┐Ż) In fact, the best name in this movie is that of the actress playing our wimpish heroine - who delights in the moniker Downtown Julie Brown. Wonderful...
   It may seem pointless to judge a martial arts movie on its narrative and acting. After all, that's not what you came for. But even the fight sequences seem listless and lacking in inspiration - and there simply aren't enough of them to satisfy anyone used to one-fight-a-minute Asian movies.
   This is a brave attempt to marry SF and martial arts, and with more imagination and a budget that allowed for more action, it might have worked. But alas, it ended up less a blazing north star, and more a dim and impenetrable cloud of interstellar dust...
   The DVD release is a special two-disc collector's edition. The film is digitally re-mastered and restored for anamorphic transfer, enhanced for widescreen TV, with Dolby digital 5.1 sound, and English subtitles option. There's also an audio commentary by British martial arts star Gary Daniels and cult film director Ross Boyask. The extras disc includes rare Japanese making-of documentary Northern Star vs Southern Cross (55 minutes), an exclusive interview with Gary Daniels - who also demonstrates his kung fu skills in featurette Warrior In Motion, deleted footage and behind-the-scenes montages, animated photo gallery (featuring some rare conceptual images and behind-the-scenes pictures), trailers.

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