John Wick meets The Man From Nowhere in this action-packed, blood-spattered symphony of close-quarters combat, from Japanese stunt performer turned director Yuji Shimomura. Starring actor, director, fight choreographer, and stuntman Tak Sakaguchi, who also wrote the screenplay.
Tak Sakaguchi, credited here simply as Tak, stars as “Toshiro”, a former, almost mythical, special forces soldier. His skill at stealthy assassination and ability to dodge bullets border on the supernatural, earning him the nickname “Ghost”.
The film’s fight co-ordinator Yoshitaka Inagawa plays “Abyss Walker”, a soldier of apparent equal skill to Toshiro’s. Akio Otsuka appears as Toshiro’s former commander, “Phantom”, who sends a team of assassins after Toshiro.
Child actor Yura Kondo plays “Sachi”, a young girl in Toshiro’s care.
Orson Mochizuki and Kenta Akami, play “Max” and “Masaru” respectively, who join Toshiro on his mission to hunt down his enemy. Actress Mariko Shinoda plays assassin “Newt”, with Issei Ishida playing fellow killer “Lock”. “13 Assassins” actor Takumi Saito appears as the wheelchair-bound “Kenji Makabe”.
During a tactical exercise in the facility of the National Defence Force, an entire special forces unit is killed by a shadowy killer known as “Ghost”.
Toshiro, a small store clerk lives a quiet life with a young girl, Sachi. Although his life is seemingly calm and peaceful, he struggles desperately to control his “inner beast”. During his therapy sessions with a pretty psychiatrist, he discusses dreams and visions of his “imagined” killing rampages.
The mysterious Phantom dispatches a team of assassins who have unfinished business with Toshiro. It is revealed that in the past Toshiro was the legendary black ops super-soldier “Ghost”, an unseen killer with almost supernatural fighting abilities. In his bid for survival, Toshiro’s “inner beast” unleashes.
When Sachi is kidnapped, Toshiro journeys to a secret special forces base to confront the demons of his past.
Much of the action in this film is not for the faint hearted. “Re:Born” ratchets it up to a level of gore not seen since The Raid films.
An atmospheric and tense opening sees a stealthy assassin infiltrate a special forces unit exercise. The tension is so palpable that this could be a J-horror version of Ridley Scott’s original “Alien” movie.
Fast forward and shopkeeper Toshiro is living a peaceful life. However, a mild-mannered-looking assassin shatters that peace. A briefcase hides a silenced pistol as he takes pot shots at Toshiro through a throng of pedestrians. Toshiro literally dodges the bullets to take his would-be killer out in an innovative but brutal fashion.
Actress Mariko Shinoda as the apparently cute and unassuming “Newt”, turns out to be a bad-ass herself, as she dispatches two lecherous males in an elevator with just a couple of economical moves. As Toshiro makes his way down a narrow street, every pedestrian on it is a potential assassin, John Wick 2-style. The bone-crunching choreography is swift and efficient. It is continually inventive, ably demonstrated by scenes like this one and a fight in the confines of a phone booth.
There is a long and quite brilliant sequence in a wood in which Toshiro and his two companions take on an entire platoon of camouflaged soldiers. They use stealth, guns, blades, martial arts and even a folding shovel! Toshiro fights in an unconventional style that looks part animal, part drunken that only adds to his Ghost-like legend. With barely a pause for breath, Toshiro enters the enemy’s lair in a further, even more tense sequence for the film’s masterful finale.
Choreography clip (Japanese)
I am not entirely sure what the moral of the plot was and it does take a little while before the action really kicks off, but my word…is your patience rewarded! The sequence in the woods is tense and thrilling. Lasting 20 minutes from start to finish it’s worth the asking price of the film alone. Even though the fighting features mostly fast-moving, close-quarters skills, and is presented with some quick-cut editing, you can still clearly see and appreciate each deadly technique.
As we have come to expect from Eureka Entertainment, the film is presented with a crisp high definition picture and superb quality DTS soundtrack that accentuates every thudding gunshot, cracking bone and slash of blade. Sadly though, the music score is one of the dullest to ever accompany an action film.
Tak plays the role of Toshiro with a cold efficiency befitting his black ops alter-ego. In the action department he performs crisp and precise techniques in every single fight scene. He is John Wick, Rambo and The Man From Nowhere, all rolled into one lethal package. “Re:Born” features some of the bloodiest, most brutal and exciting fighting action I have seen in a long time. It’s really going to take something special to beat this one in 2018!
- Fight choreographer Yoshitaka Inagawa, lead actor Tak and director Yuji Shimomura developed a new style of martial arts specifically for the film. After years of combat training and teaching US Special Forces with his unique yet highly field-based practical methods, Yoshitaka came up with the Zero Range Combat System. Yoshitaka also serves as a trainer for the military and international police agencies, as well as leading the training team for a special Japanese rapid reaction unit.
- Tak has trained in Bajiquan, Shorinji Kempo, boxing, and kickboxing. He was discovered on Japan’s underground street-fighting circuit and cast in the movie “Versus” as a result of his real-life skills.
- Director Yuji Shimomura appeared as a sniper in Donnie Yen’s “Flash Point”.
- In 2013, Tak announced his retirement from acting to focus on his work behind the camera. He was so startled by the reaction from his fans, who wanted to see more of him in action, that he wrote “Re:Born” especially for them! In an interview Tak stated, “I realised that I wanted to create the ultimate action masterpiece one last time. This would satisfy the burning feeling I left behind and would signify a good retirement.”
Film Rating: 8/10
- “Nerves cloud your thoughts. It’s why herbivores get eaten”
- “Still want my blood? Come and get it!”
“Re:Born” releases on Blu-ray & DVD in the UK on 12th March 2018 courtesy of Eureka Entertainment. What are your thoughts on this title, which Japanese martial arts flicks and action heroes really impress you? Let us know below, join in the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. (Check out our other fu-centric reviews too!)