Kuro-obi (Black Belt) (2007)
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Set in the early years of the Showa Era in Japan, the story revolves around three men who aspire to receive the "kuro-obi" that can go only to the rightful successor. In contrast to modern martial arts film where wires, CGI or stylized filmmaking techniques are used to dazzle audiences with stylized action scenes, the director has combined a character-driven story with the talents of real black belt karate masters/actors Akihito Yagi, Tatsuya Naka and Yuji Suzuki. The film makers have gone for style and substance over mindless entertainment and produce a very entertaining story of 3 students deciding their paths after their sensei has passed and the military has requisitioned the dojo. This is real karate, real fast, so be sure not to blink or you might miss something
"Real Fight, Real Karate, Real Japan." That tag line about sums up this karate action drama picture from Shunichi Nagasaki.
Set in 1930's Japan Black Belt tells the tale of 3 karate students after their master reaches the after life. Actually, 2 of the students become the focus of the film, while the 3rd falls into the background. The story follows the paths taken by the 2 main characters and they are quite different. One follows his master's teachings, while the other strays away down his own dark path. In a sense, this movie has the good versus evil concept going for it. With that said, the plot is VERY predictable and there are no real surprises. The pacing is also very slow with only a moderate amount of action. The 90 minutes will not fly by.
What this movie will do is catch certain people's attention with the realism of the characters and settings, the message of the story, and the focus on karate. This is all fine and dandy, but many will still find this movie to be quite uneventful.
The action is all realistic karate fights. This means there is no fancy choreography or any wire work involved. This also means that the fights aren't all that entertaining, unless one appreciates the style of karate. The film even switches to black and white for the final fight.
The nice thing about the casting is that 3 real-life karate masters are chosen for the 3 students. This is why the film is as realistic as it is. Their acting is also pretty good.
Black Belt isn't about fancy martial arts or cheap thrills and this will pretty much determine who will enjoy it and who won't. Give this film a try if this sounds like something for you.
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