Black Belt (Kuro Obi)

Three karateka are competing for the black belt that will designate one of them as the successor of their master. However, the military police wants to enlist them into teaching karate to the army, which goes against the spirit of their martial art. At the same time, some military officers are engaged in human trafficking activities...

This movie is a little disappointing. It is certainly entertaining, but the story is rather thin and, in the end, you feel that not all the situations introduced through the movie have been resolved. The conflict between the two main characters has been settled, with each of them learning a valuable lesson, but they still have to deal with the corrupted military.

At first it seems to be a movie about the philosophy found in the practice of karate, but the thematic also goes a little deeper than that. It also touch the subject of the “comfort women” used by the military during the war. It is a good thing that the movie acknowledge their existence -- since many Japanese politicians have denied that the use of “comfort women” ever took place -- but the movie present it as the creation of corrupt and greedy military officers, supporting the current trend of public opinion saying that Japan should not feel guilty and should not apologize for the crime of just a few bad officers. Touchy subject.

As all main characters are played not by professional actors but real karate masters, the acting is a little weak. The story, if a little simplistic, is quite interesting, but don't expect a Bruce Lee-type of action movie. Like most Japanese movies, it takes the slow, reflective approach, using the calm and nice imagery of countryside Japan as backdrop.

Screened on 2007/08/25 at 11:30 AM in the Cinema Imperial. The theatre was almost full.

Reviewed by Claude J. Pelletier

For more information:    MWFF entry   /    IMDB entry   /    Official Japanese website.

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