North Star should never fight Southern Cross! It was a mantra repeated throughout this, the most PUBAR (pumped up beyond all recognition) of all post-apocalyptic Gary Daniels (Heatseeker, Pocket Ninjas) flicks.
Beyond the fact that I didn’t have the faintest idea what anyone was talking about though I guess it sort of made sense that a star shouldn’t fight an entire constellation, every time either Gary or his mentor, the surely embarrassed Malcolm McDowell, earnestly uttered this cryptic bit of philosophy, I became more and more convinced that if North Star ever did throw down with Southern Cross that it would be a punch-apocalyptic mess of kicks, grunts, and broken stuff!
Well, it shouldn’t shake your fighting school belief system too badly to find out not only should North Star never fight Southern Cross, but that they actually beat the brownies out of one another twice!
Remember, this is after the collapse of civilization, so the old paradigms where the great fighting schools of earth co-exist in sweaty harmony are tossed aside like so many drenched leather vests.
It’s all laid out by Ryuken (McDowell) in a rather extensive voice over which would work really well to set the proper mood for a world without hope except for the fact that we already are feeling a bottomless pit of despair in our stomachs after watching the opening credits.
Costas Mandylor? Pro wrestler Leon “Vader” White? MTV VJ Downtown Julie Brown? The fact that Gary Daniels killed two of these three is sufficient that he will always be in my list of top five action heroes no matter what.
But just like there is the good North Star to balance out the evil Southern Cross, so too are there enough familiar faces kicking ass that the film easily overcomes some of its more idiosyncratic acting choices.
Malcolm McDowell worked with Stanley Kubrick after all. His big scenes in this film involve him floating in the air in red pajamas and taking the form of a reanimated corpse to lecture his son Kenshirô (Daniels) about his destiny. It’s pretty much A Clockwork Orange for a generation raised on Road Warrior rip offs!
And what can you say about Chris Penn as the witty and murderously psychotic Jackal except that he steals every scene he was in? And he manages to do this while wearing a leather harness on his horribly disfigured head? Is it any wonder that he worked with Don “The Dragon” Wilson and Quentin Tarantino is successive films?
Sure, it was awesome when Kenshirô’s old lady Julia caused his harness to get caught in some gears so that it was ripped off and thus allowed all the bumps on his head to finally explode, but deep down I was disappointed that he wouldn’t have a final opportunity to smart off to the over serious Kenshirô.
The story, based on the 1980s manga, is somehow at once ridiculous, familiar, and the perfect excuse to stage a bunch of kung fu fights featuring over-the-top injuries.
Following the destruction of civilization, the fighting discipline known as Southern Cross assumes control under the brutal dictatorship of Lord Shin (Mandylor). Kenshirô is the last survivor of the North Star and he must travel to the city controlled by Shin to stop him from enslaving a bunch of wimpy villagers.
Kenshirô sports seven round wounds on his chest which he suffered at the hands of Shin during their last encounter. Kenshirô somehow let his butt get kicked all over the wasteland by Shin while his girlfriend looked on, no doubt humiliated by Kenshirô’s rather pitiful showing.
Believing her dead, Kenshirô wanders around the crapped up countryside until he finally gets the psychic message from his dad (murdered by Shin) that he has to confront Shin.
Along the way, Kenshirô establishes his savior bona fides by healing a blind girl, saving a boy who idolizes him and comforting the boy once he lies dying in Kenshirô’s arms.
As everyone in the universe except for Kenshirô has probably guessed, Julia is still alive and living with Shin! She is still faithful to Kenshirô and clutches the magic beans that Kenshirô gave to her and claimed would save civilization.
Though we all laughed when the seeds were knocked to the floor during a confrontation with Shin, the joke is on Shin because dang it if one of those seeds didn’t end up in a crack in the floor of Shin’s stronghold and start to grow!
This proved to be critical because during the brawl he and Kenshirô had at the end of the movie, Shin had obviously won yet again, what with him using his special move of punching holes in Kenshirô’s chest and causing Kenshirô’s elbow joints to rip open, when Kenshirô sees this weed growing in Shin’s floor and you know what that means!
It’s like someone flicked a switch, as if Kenshirô thought “this guy can’t even keep the weeds out of his freaking house! How can he beat me?”
Once you get a look at Mandylor and Daniels kicking each other in the face, you understand why North Star should never fight Southern Cross! It’s because their mullets might get tangled up with each other!
Without a doubt, Daniels is an impossibly jacked up karate god in this movie, but his mullet proves to the one most hideously mutated by all the radiation in the air. It looks so bad on him that whatever actor’s union represents wigs surely filed a complaint against the filmmakers.
Add in the five o’clock shadow that sometimes looks so fake on him that you can’t help but think you’re watching a live action version of Sport & Shave Ken, and you realize that this is surely Gary Daniels’ most impressive work since he’s still able to come across like a perfectly sculpted bad ass. His leather pants don’t hurt either.
Mandylor’s caramel colored leather halter top is an entirely different story and when Kenshirô finally punches his head to death, it’s like a mercy killing. Mullets and manscaped stubble may be acceptable under certain circumstances in a world gone mad, but the light brown, wide strap leather tank top is always a fashion don’t, regardless of how many laws of man, God, and fighting schools you break.
© 2013 MonsterHunter