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One-Percent Warrior - Movie Poster
Original Title:

Japan 2023

Action, Drama

Yudai Yamaguchi

Tak Sakaguchi
Kohei Fukuyama
Harumi Kanon
Taro Suruga
Togo Ishii
Sho Aoyagi
Itsuji Itao
Kenjiro Ishimaru
Keisuke Horibe
Ohji Hiroi

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One-Percent Warrior

One-Percent Warrior - Film Screenshot 1

aka One-Percenter

Story: Takuma Toshiro (Tak Sakaguchi) is an action movie star, but as he never fails to mention in interviews, his action is not fake, it is real. Numerous comments of military instructors and various other experts confirm that too. However, as the years go by, Takuma's dream of making a "real" action movie seems to get more and more out of reach. It's been ten years since he made the cult movie that catapulted him to the top. In the meantime, he has only played small supporting roles in anime adaptations. And now, apart from Akira (Kohei Fukuyama), his last students have left his dojo too. Takuma therefore decides to take matters into his own hands - together with Akira. He doesn't have a big budget, but he wants to make his own masterpiece with what he has. Thanks to the help of an old friend, he gets access to an old factory on a deserted island which he wants to use as a filming location. Nevertheless, it turns out that another director is already shooting a movie there with the stunt team with whom Takuma has already clashed in the past. But all this fades into the background when gangsters suddenly appear on the island and want to capture the daughter (Rumika Fukuda) of a deceased yakuza boss in order to squeeze the hiding place of two tons of cocaine out of her. Takuma sees his chance to deliver real action. Akira is supposed to film as much as possible while Takuma takes on the gangsters. And the action actor is in fact posing a big problem for them...

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One-Percent Warrior - Film Screenshot 4

Review: Tak Sakaguchi has been a household name among action fans since 2000 and his starring role in "Versus". To be honest, I've always had a bit of a hard time warming up to him, because I felt like he focused too much on looking extra cool in his scenes. If you wanted to be mean, you might also accuse him of being a little arrogant. In "One-Percent Warrior" this is exactly what is made fun of. So, it is no coincidence that the interview of the fictional actor reminds you of Steven Seagal's ramblings considering himself to be at least as great as the best member of the Special Forces. The movie therefore proves to be a low-key comedy and mockumentary, which shows parallels to "JCVD", and it repeatedly (in the right moments) switches to a meta level. That's what makes the movie work so well in the end. Because, apart from a few action scenes, this is otherwise just an unspectacular action flick that could have been a "direct-to-video" movie, you might think. But that's exactly what the movie does make fun of, it even gets more complex towards the end than you would have expected. Which is a pretty impressive achievement.

One-Percent Warrior - Film Screenshot 5

Fans of Tak Sakaguchi will get everything they have been longing for, though. Finally, we get an explanation what exactly Tak's "wave form" is all about. After all, his unusual fighting style even allowed him to dodge bullets in his previous movies. Not only are we presented with reasons for that, but Tak/Takuma also makes his dislike for wirework and the way of fighting which is more like a dance than anything else very obvious. At the same time, there is also a rather everything but subtle jab at movies like "Rurouni Kenshin", whereas it should not be forgotten that Tak himself has already appeared in supporting roles in manga adaptations such as "Shinobi - Heart under Blade". Such humorous moments work well, specifically because they are brought across without any slapstick and they blur the line between fiction and reality. Takuma sees himself as a real action star, and when the villains refer to him as Jackie Chan, he declares that he'd prefer Bruce Lee. But more than anything else, Takuma wants to prove something to himself, as that's the whole reason why he takes on the gangsters. Or in other words, he throws himself into this fight simply because he can...

One-Percent Warrior - Film Screenshot 6

Of course, there are then altercations with whole groups of mercenaries who, for more or less good reasons, cannot use their firearms. This is where Tak Sakaguchi's "real" action comes into play. And on closer inspection, it is honestly nothing of the sort. Keeping with the action movie cliché, the mercenaries always attack one after the other, while in real life Tak's knife defense would inevitably lead to him having completely slashed forearms. So, of course, we get a choreography here as well, but it tries to simulate realism. There are a few nice scenes, but nothing that really impressed me. But that's how I often feel with Tak's movies. So maybe I just don't like his fighting style. What is particularly frustrating, though, is that Masanori Mimoto ("Hydra") can only be seen in a small supporting role and there is no continuation of the great confrontation - one of the few exceptions - between him and Tak that we got a glimpse of in "Bad City". Some potential was clearly wasted here. It would have made a lot more sense to have one-on-one fights between two equal opponents to ramp up the action than to have the protagonist fight his way through hordes of enemies without much resistance.

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Most martial arts fans will still get their money's worth, though, because the realism-oriented style of Kensuke Sonomura, who not only directed but also choreographed the fights in the last two movies, manages to put some hard action on the screen again. The breathtaking showdown against Ishii Togo offers just about everything you wish for and therefore makes you forget some of the cinematic weaknesses. Director Yudai Yamaguchi was also able to create some interesting images thanks to some shots with drones buzzing around and through the factory, but every now and then the movie seems as if it was only produced for a mediocre streaming service. However, the one-dimensional and often highly stereotypical villains are particularly annoying, and also raise the question of why a little drama was built in here with characters being allowed to talk about their mental problems. How is this supposed to affect us if we are not even interested in whether, for example, the daughter of the gangster boss lives or dies in the end? A few incorporated, rather character-oriented scenes even seem really out of place.

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But at least one of those scenes makes sense in the end. Contrary to expectations, there is an interesting twist at the end, and the meta level is also used from time to time to make the story more interesting than it normally would be. In any case, Tak Sakaguchi has proven here that - even though he doesn't look like it - he has more humor than expected. With a running time of approximately 85 minutes, the movie is not longer than it needs to be either. And thanks to the showdown action fans will get their money's worth too, even though the unimpressive, slightly too slow soundtrack can't adequately underline the fights. Despite the action, "One-Percenter" (which is the alternative title) would just have been a mediocre and forgettable flick if the last 15-20 minutes hadn't created a special depth. This way, all events ultimately become a background for the actual message behind the movie or Takuma's character drawing. So, the dirctor and screenwriter obviously put more effort into this than would have been necessary, but without creating the feeling of cheating the genre by leaning too much into arthouse.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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