23 February 2003 | bob the moo
Really unimaginative and cheap feeling
In the future the world has become a waste land after the apocalypse. The populated territory is now under the rule of the martial arts clan of the Southern Cross, led by Lord Shin. When the Master of the North Star is murdered the baton is passed and the new master has very personal issues with Shin. When he passes through a small terrorised village he comes to their aid and sets up a confrontation with Shin.
Even though I had read bad reviews about this film, I still had reasonable hopes for it, using the logic that I was prepared for a dumb martial arts movie. However some bothered me about the film was that it didn't seem to live up to the potential that the story had. The film should have been a more majestic story about mysterious clans doing battle in the future, but instead it felt very small and restricted. The story doesn't seem to go anywhere and lots of avenues are left unexplored.
The sets etc don't help as they were clearly pretty cheap and only the opening shot of Malcolm McDowell sitting in his oriental house really had style or imagination the images of apocalypse were too cheap to be impressive. The fight scenes are pretty average I'm sad to say. While Honk Kong cinema was on the edge of things, this film was back in the 1970's with its standard fights. In the anime the fights are much more impressive and the film should have tried to capture much more of a sense of wonder. The effects are a little too gory for my taste and don't fit with the story, because the film lacks a sense of mysticism it feels ordinary hence the problem when it tries to do something that is different or weird.
The cast has some well known faces in small roles but the lead actors aren't up to the task of delivering good dialogue, they have awesome bodies and can move quite well but they can't act! This takes away from the film a great deal and stopped me getting into the characters. Daniels and Mandylor are two of the guiltiest ones but it is spread through the cast of villagers, including Melvin Van Peebles. McDowell looks like he might add class but is a temporary narrator and faces like Penn and Howard are only of interest rather than stealing the show.
Overall this is a pretty poor film. It lacks the majestic, epic sweep that it should have had and feels small and cheap. The effects are OK but the fights really lack flair or imagination witness people queuing up to come one at a time and you'll understand what I mean. The poor acting, bad dialogue and basic average delivery of every part of the film really makes this feel bad I was in the mood for an undemanding martial arts movie to waste 90 minutes and even I was disappointed by this!