Popular Japanese anime and manga are useful to Gary Daniels in the 90s!
It was a big deal for Gary Daniels, a chance to show he could make a movie on his own on a medium budget. Daniels began starring in action films in the early 1990s, in numerous low-budget productions where his fighting skills were the best they had to offer. Fist of the North Star was her first starring role in a major production. The film is also guaranteed to attract attention as it is an adaptation of the extremely popular Japanese manga and anime series.
It’s always difficult to summarize the rich history of a monumental saga in a movie. I think the film, as a faithful adaptation of the original, was considered a total failure by many fans of the original. But we’ll leave that question aside for this article and judge Fist of the North Star solely on its merits as an action film.
It’s Gary Daniels against the world in Hawk’s Revenge (1996).
CMAU controls the fist of the North Star
Daniels plays Kenshiro, a member of the North Star martial arts clan with supernatural powers. The North Star is battling the Southern Cross faction for what’s left of civilization after the 3rd. There’s still the first world war. The leader of the Southern Cross, Shin, kills Kenshiro’s father and establishes a tyrannical rule over the entire world. Kenshiro survives the attack and becomes a one-man army, defeating anyone who stands between him and his quest for revenge.
Fist of the North Star was directed by Tony Randall, who is best known for shooting the sequel to Hellraiser. His first foray into the action genre has resulted in a very entertaining film that looks much better than it should given the budget. Randel creates a pretty amazing visual mix, combining classic post-apocalyptic images of ruined cities and desolate landscapes with Soviet-style art and a touch of Metropolis. The film also benefits greatly from Randel’s skills as a professional editor. The quality of the action is excellent, with long takes and smooth transitions, and the battles are better than the chaotic fight scenes we see all too often in low-budget action films.
Gary Daniels directed Brian Ginsez in Cold Harvest (1999).
Gary Daniels moves on to resident
Daniels is in good form and throws all sorts of punches and wild strikes at his opponents. They usually die violently, as his fighting skills can rearrange body parts in very strange and unhealthy ways. Given Daniels’ work in Fist of the North Star and other films of the era, such as Bloodmoon and Hawk Revenge, there is no doubt that he was one of the most talented martial artists to enter the film arena. I’m sorry he wasn’t as successful as some of his colleagues.
He looks pretty cool in the North Star Fist, with a boyish haircut, a worn black leather jacket and a fierce expression on his face the whole time. His actions – like those of many action heroes in the 1980s and 1990s – could have been better. But nobody can become a kickboxing world champion and win an Oscar for best actor in their lifetime, so no problem here. Unfortunately, Fist of the North Star did not advance Daniels’ career, and he will continue to showcase his fighting skills in productions firmly rooted in B-movies.
Kenshiro’s heroism is complemented well by the actions of the villains. The Southern Cross gang doesn’t seem to want to preserve what’s left of civilization, just commit murder after murder. They all look amazingly crazy, especially Chris Penn when Sheen’s left hand does a great shuffle. He looks like he’s been through a meat grinder for filming, and he wears a leather helmet that literally keeps him from exploding.
Gary Daniels’ Christmas action classic, Riot (1996).
But how safe is that?
The film is very entertaining, but has some problems. Sometimes it’s too serious and becomes a serious kitsch factor in some scenes. For example, Kenshiro makes a strange impression on Jesus when he heals a blind girl with his touch, or when he talks to his dead father, who momentarily rises from his grave like a zombie. The other problem is that the plot is totally incoherent and some of the plot elements lead nowhere. Maybe it’s because the filmmakers are trying to cram as many manga references into the film as possible, but a little more attention would have been very helpful in my opinion.
North Star’s Fist is a hard-hitting, if somewhat chaotic, fight film with a great physical performance from Daniels. In some ways it resembles Albert Pune’s classic Cyborg, and it’s certainly one of the best post-apocalyptic B-movies to come out since Mad Max.