May 16, 2017

Revisiting Sonny Chiba’s The Bodyguard

Every fan of Quentin Tarantino is well aware how influential this movie was on him as in the opening crawl may seem a little familiar: “The path of the righteous man and defender is beset on all sides by the iniquity of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper, and the father of lost children. And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious anger, who poison and destroy my brothers; and they shall know that I am Chiba the Bodyguard when I shall lay my vengeance upon them!” Yes that was lifted practically word for word in Pulp Fiction and used by Samuel L. Jackson to quite devastating effect.

I picked up a particularly shitty quality VHS version of the film (and that’s the way I like it!) a few weeks ago and watched the film in all its grainy glory. It was pretty badly dubbed but I’ve always found Sonny Chiba to be one of the most magnetic martial stars when he is on screen. He has such ferocity on his face that he looks like he is always about to explode and kill everybody but barely keeps it under the surface. 

The Street Fighter films are hugely entertaining and easily his best work but I have to be honest say that The Bodyguard or Karate Kiba as it’s otherwise known is actually pretty bad. There is some terrible camera work and editing during the fight scenes so you can barely tell what is going on. It was really frustrating and reminded me that shaky cam has sadly been around for a long time and isn’t a recent affliction.

The story is also really dumb with Chiba returning to Japan, where he holds a press conference announcing his intention to wipe out the nation’s drug industry. He also offers his services as a bodyguard to anyone who is willing to come forward and provide information about the drug lords’ activities. He’s soon approached by a mysterious woman claiming to have important information and asking for Chiba’s protection but she isn’t what she first seems and betrays him. You’d think that after announcing to the press that you are going to take on the drug trade that all hell was going to break loose and yet it never really does. There are a few incoherent fight scenes but we never really get to see Chiba at his badass best.

There are also just a few too many stupid moments and the scene with the henchmen shooting at the door but somehow missing Chiba is ridiculous.

The most entertaining scene is when terrorists take over a plane with Chiba saving the day as he literally knocks one of the bad guys’ teeth out which is hilarious as to how fake it looks. It’s one of those films that you know  isn’t “good” per se but you can enjoy it in a Mystery Science Theatre kind of way.

It does at least have that sleazy 70’s vibe though which gives it an added grittiness which also means some nudity thrown in for good measure too which is always a plus. 

If you’re a Sonny Chiba fan (like me) then you’ll want to watch the movie once to say that you’ve at least seen it but it’s not one of his better movies and hasn’t stood the test of time well at all. Grab a sextet of ale beforehand and enjoy it for what it is…

About the Author

Eoin Friel
Eoin Friel
I grew up watching JCVD, Sly and Arnold destroy bad guys, blow things up and spew one-liners like it's a fashion statement. Action is everything I go to the movies for and the reason I came up with this site is to share my love for the genre with everyone.



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