Monday, August 12, 2013

Ju-Jitu (aka Jiu-Jitu vs Karate)

Director: Hiroki Asai
Starring: Ryohei Sakai, Koji Nakamura, Chikaomi Miyamoto, Yi Nan, Yasuaki Kurata

A no-budget, shot on video pic from Japan that just happens to contain some of the finest and most realistic empty handed combat sequences ever lensed.

The story is one big, hoary cliche about a nasty karate school challenging a noble jiu-jitsu dojo. Compounding the over simplistic story is some embarassing overacting from the villains and bland, near non-acting from the heroes, leading to some unintended laughs where there should have been tense drama. This however isn't surprising when you realize that real martial artists were used for all the main parts and they quite obviously never went to a thesping class.

But never mind any of that, 'Jiu Jitu' is all about the plentiful fighting and training scenes and are they ever an eyeful. Long time genre vet Yasuaki Kurata oversaw the project, producing and choreographing it as well as playing the wise jiu-jitsu sensei. Even in his 60s, Kurata has lost none of his physical prowess or screen presence. Star Ryohei Sakai may not quite cut it in the dramatic scenes, but once the combat comes into play, he "switches on" like the best of them and you believe he's the real deal (which essentially, he is).

The action is at a consistently high level throughout, but Kurata and director Hiroki Asai save the best for the finale. The near fifteen minute (!) showdown between Sakai's jiu-jitsu style and the karate school's top student (played by Koji Nakamura) is an absolutely blistering, exhausting tour de force that just may be the single finest one on one bout ever commited to film (er, video). So btutal, so thorough and so  draining is this bout that it left me gasping... and then rewatching it just to make sure it held up on repeat viewings (it most cetaintly does).

For all of the film's shortcomings, the final bout in 'Jiu-Jitu' automatically elevates it to recommended status.

Rating: 5/10

Here you can watch the final bout and judge whether or not I exaggerated about just how incredible it is:

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