Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Bodyguard (1976)

The Action Mutant…
will always love a platonic, sort of way.

The Bodyguard (1976)

review by Joe Burrows

Well, it has finally come to this. Though this is article #101 of the TAM, this is officially the 100th review I’ve written (don’t forget about the video game article)! I didn’t even get into the habit of counting how many I did until I posted the bulk of them this past March. Anyway, I wish I had a more noteworthy film for the special occasion but I’ve honestly been a bit busy to go to the ol’ Redbox and rent Rambo. I definitely need a few free hours to count up all of the corpses in that gorefest! Speaking of familiarity and all that mess…

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! [Ezekiel 25:17]

Man, that QT has seen a lot of stuff! Although, I don’t remember Chiba breaking Abraham’s ribs after the latter killed Isaac. Or becoming the first to part the Red Sea by nailing it with a magma hairball powered punch. I have to read up on my Bible, stat!

The Plot, as it was:
Sonny is Chiba the Bodyguard (wow, that must have taken all of 0.5 seconds to come up with), a karate badass that comes home to Japan to put the country’s drug runners on notice. He states during a press conference (which is held after he stops a band of terrorists on the plane home) that he will guard anyone that has information on the drug trade and will take the bad element out one by one. A mistress (Judy Lee) to a recently dead mob boss takes Chiba up on his offer, which predictably brings the entire hostile criminal element out to try and shut Chiba down. Um, I would categorize that as a “bad idea” but that would be an understatement.

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
Think of this as The Street Fighter, only that it’s made for apparently half the budget and ¾ of the skill missing from that previous effort. Everything about this effort screams haphazard, whether it’s the shaky camerawork (which was refreshing & gritty at first but got old fast for me) or the scene involving American martial artists Aaron Banks and Bill Louie shoehorned in the beginning for Western consumption. Actually, the first third or so makes it seem like a fun movie will follow but it eventually gets bogged down by uninteresting villains and choppy plotting. The action cannot be contained within the standard TV screen and the work suffers because of it. You know its bad when you have to scroll back in order to make sure what really happened in the preceding fight scene! Needless to say, things soon degenerate into the expected mob double crosses and gratuitous kills, not to mention that Chiba’s character grows increasingly dumb in order to make the plot go along. He does all of the old tricks here (hairball raising, bone cracking, etc.) but it’s all for naught if there’s not a half decent wall to throw them at and make them stick. The only thing you can take comfort in is that, at 87 minutes, it’s fairly short. And you’ll still be chanting “VIV-A…CHI-BA! VIV-A…CHI-BA!” regardless how bad it is.

Body Count/Violence: 29. The film retains some of the gory, bone crunching violence that is notable in Chiba films but it’s so poorly filmed here that a lot of it comes off flat. As expected, plenty of kung fu fighting is involved, with much of it consisting of blood spurting and teeth cracking body blows. Some bloody shooting, severed arms & heads (trust me, the latter is pretty funny in an unintentional way), skull splitting, knife & axe play and eye gouging also goes on.

Sexuality/Nudity: The nudity is fairly staked in its 70s roots, as there are no less than five instances of female flesh bared. The oddest one has to be the first, where Chiba’s sister is jumped by hoods and stripped naked and sprawled out on the ground in a Christ-esque pose. The rest is mostly breasts bared, with at least one more full body shot thrown in. (Note: DON’T get the Digiview Entertainment DVD of this film. All of the nudity is ludicrously pixilated out! I know it was only $1 in the Walmart Dollar DVD section but for fuck’s sakes!)

Language/Dialogue: A few F’s, along with some milder obscenities.

How bad was it?:
Even Chiba aficionados have a hard time coming up with good excuses to watch this. Most critics say this is subpar, even by the low standards expected from Chiba’s post-Street Fighter work.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
Nippon-American produced The Bodyguard and it was released in the States by Aquarius Releasing in September 1976. No money figures available.

Film: **/*****
Entertainment value: ***1/2/*****

Copyright 2008 The Action Mutant.

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