Tak Sakaguchi has spent his career pushing Japanese action movies to further and further heights since his debut in the low-budget “Highlander”-“Evil Dead” hybrid, 2000’s “Versus”.
Since then, his focused, rhythmic approach to fight scenes and on-screen anti-heroes has wowed Japanese and international audiences in hits like “Re:Born”, “Crazy Samurai Musashi”, and “Prisoners of the Ghostland”.
Yudai Yamaguch’s 2023 actioner “One Percenter” is a whole new beast for Sakaguchi, bringing his talent to martial arts action on a story that bears a striking and doubtlessly intentional resemblance to his own career.
“One Percenter” is a Semi-Autobiographical Action Movie
Per the “One Percenter” official synopsis for its showing at the 2023 Brussels International Film Festival earlier this year:
“Big action star Takuma Toshiro has succeeded in riling up the whole profession against him by declaring that cinematographic fights should be closer to reality than these choreographed ballets, where shrimps without talent tickle each other with foam swords.
After a ten-year hiatus, Takuma is attempting a comeback with a very personal project, a straight-up actioner for which he’s already got the ideal location in mind: a shut-down factory on a deserted island with zero cell phone coverage. Once they arrive on the spot though, the island turns out to be a little less deserted than expected.
Two rivaling yakuza gangs sought out a quiet little place to peacefully massacre each other all the while looking for two millions dollars’ worth of cocaine that was hidden somewhere on the island.
If the majority of the film crew is shitting their pants out of pure, undiluted fear, Takuma is overjoyed. Where the others see ruthless hoodlums, he sees lots of extras in his movie to beat up for free in front of a rolling camera!”
Needless to say, more than a few of these elements of the story of “One Percenter” parallel Tak Sakaguchi’s career, notably his retirements and returns to the Japanese action industry.
Moreover, Takuma’s filmography in “One Percenter” including the movie “Birth” – a clear reference to “Re:Born” – and also being a practitioner of “Assassination-Jutsu”, a nod to Tak’s use of the modern hybrid art “Zero Range Combat” in his more recent action films.
Comparisons have already emerged online likening “One Percenter” to being Tak’s version of the Muscles from Brussel’s 2008 semi-autobiography “JCVD”.
Of course, an action star effectively playing himself is a true novelty, which BIFFF made a point of emphasizing in the festival’s own pre-release hype for “One Percenter”:
“Some might see ONE PERCENTER as a reckoning with an industry that’s a little too fond of wires and CGI à gogo. But it is above all an ode to the legendary fighting machine Tak Sakaguchi aka “John Wick with a sword”.
He was Ryūhei Kitamura’s muse (VERSUS, AZUMI, etc.) and was recently pitted against no less than 588 enemies in one room in CRAZY SAMURAI MUSASHI. And behind the camera? Well, if that isn’t Yudai Yamaguchi, who won a Silver Raven at the BIFFF 2013 for ABDUCTEE!”
“One Percenter” Shows Take Sakaguchi at His Peak
Tak Sakaguchi’s fight scenes have never failed to be dynamic, electrifying spectacles of speed and power, and there’s a major “Re:Born”-style dynamism on display in the fight sequences seen in the “One Percenter” trailer.
Naturally, credit is also due to action director Yuji Shimomura, Tak’s previous collaborator on “Re:Born” and other movies.
With its fast-pace and the tight, labyrinthine confines of its setting, “One Percenter” looks poised to deliver a blast of martial arts movie power upon its release.
Tak Sakaguchi Has Pushed Japanese Martial Arts Films To New Heights
Since his work in “Versus”, Tak Sakaguchi has been arguably Japan’s premiere martial arts movie titan, and with good reason.
Embodying a centered warrior ready to strike at a moment’s notice, Tak’s screen persona has been the perfect vessel for his talents with fight choreography.
“Re:Born” in particular is one of the most overlooked martial arts films of recent years from an international standpoint, with some of the best on-screen martial arts sequences of the 21st century.
Tak’s one-shot movie “Crazy Samurai Musashi” is also a one-of-a-kind achievement, presenting history’s most legendary samurai in a one-man war with hundreds of opponents over a 77-minute shot.
Following Tak’s memorable supporting role in the Nicolas Cage actioner “Prisoners of the Ghostland”, “One Percenter” is another surge of his brand of action with Yuji Shimomura’s exhilarating fight choreography never more finely-tuned.
When Will “One Percenter” Debut In The West?
“One Percenter” will hit theaters soon in Japan, and has already had a minor Western debut with its aforementioned showing at the 2023 BIFFF and its showing at the 2023 Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas.
No details are yet set in stone on the US or UK releases of “One Percenter”, but the ever-reliable American import label Well Go USA, will be handling stateside right for the movie, which will naturally include a streaming release on their martial arts and Asian action cinema-centric platform, Hi-YAH!
Hopefully, the full details of the Western release of “One Percenter” will be forthcoming soon to make 2023’s holiday season a little more holy and jolly!