The Challenge (1982) a.k.a. Sword Of The Ninja a.k.a. Equals: Breakdown by Kain424
An American boxer becomes embroiled in a Japanese conflict over ancient swords.
After An Eye For An Eye all but invented many of the ideas, scenes, and moments of the 80s Action movie, all that was left was further implementation. A film that could have easily starred Chuck Norris, The Challenge is about a westerner going to Japan and getting in over his head. The idea, seen in earlier works (like the James Bond flick You Only Live Twice) as well as those in later years (see Black Rain), is here given a far more Eastern approach than expected. The westerner is treated as the odd man out, a man from a capitalist, and largely dishonorable culture. Still, he remains our hero.
Scott Glenn manages well enough, typically arrogant and ignorant of the ways of the culture in which he finds himself. Later in the film he has come to understand and respect the values of the East, even adopting its ways. Glenn looks like a David Carradine clone, but fights like a mixture of Chuck Norris and Steven Seagal at half speed.
Of course, since Seagal actually worked as an advisor for the film’s fight choreography (in the credits as Steve Seagal), this only makes sense. And the sensei’s arm-twisting Aikido fighting style can be seen in several scenes, such as the following one:
[flashvideo filename=videos/Challenge.avi.FLV /]
This, naturally, takes place in the movie’s brilliant third act. What had, at first, seemed like a culture clash story about the value of honor and integrity turns into a wild Action flick, violent and fun as hell. Toshiro Mifune shows his stuff, nearly taking over the whole thing by the end, but leaving one of the genre’s best sword fights to Glenn.
As difficult as The Challenge is to come by anymore, I must say that it is completely worth the trouble. It may be a tad slow to start, but the pay-off is unbelievably awesome. I can’t stress enough that bearing through the first half of the film is worth it. You simply have to watch the damn thing yourself. And besides, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Scott Glenn wielding an M-16 with a samurai sword strapped to his back.
[HOW BAD-ASS ARE THE MAIN CHARACTERS?]
Scott Glenn is Rick
Rick seems to think it’s still the 70s, sporting a late 70s-Norris haircut, tight pants, and a tucked in button-up shirt for most of the movie. He thinks he can fight, being a boxer from the States, though only after intense training from Mifune can he actually start to kick-ass. He essentially starts out as a bit of a loser, but ends the film as an Easternized bad-ass.
Toshirô Mifune is Toru Yoshida
He’s Toshirô motherfuckin’ Mifune! At this point, it’s just assumed that he’s a bad-ass. This incarnation, though older, shows he can still slay with the best of them, single-handedly taking on several of the primary antagonist’s guards, splitting stomachs and piercing hearts.
[THE BODY COUNT: 39]
In the film’s third act, things go from tame to truly gory, as we get decapitations, disembowelments, stabbings, slicings, impalings, and that old stand-by, death from gunshots. This is one of those movies where the good guys kill way more people than the bad guys. Mifune manages to kill 17, all in fairly violent fashion, and Scott Glenn gets most of the rest.
[MOST SATISFYING DEATH]
Ando’s a pain in the neck. The snarkiest little bastard in the movie, he finally messes up and it costs him his head.
[DUDESWEAT AND MACHISMO]
Despite Glenn’s goofy hair, the movie takes its sexuality only in hetero directions. There is a rivalry between Rick and Kubo, but it never goes anywhere thematically or sexually.
[EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY]
There’s nothing too overt here, just the fact that after explaining how her father trained her to become a warrior because he “wanted a boy”, Akiko gets captured and plays the damsel in distress for the remainder of the picture.
[EPIC MOMENT AND BEST ONE-LINER]
After Yoshida’s daughter gets kidnapped, he decides to attack his brother’s compound by himself. Accompanied by a score that sounds eerily similar to the one from Rambo: First Blood Part II (in fact, both scores were done by Jerry Goldsmith), Toshirô Mifune raids the place, killing everyone he comes by, until he teams up with Scott Glenn, who only adds fuel to the fire.
After being buried up to his neck for five days, without food or drink, Glenn eats a beetle that crawls by his face and, still maintaining his American sense of humor, croaks: “Breakfast of champions.”
[THE MORAL OF THE STORY]
Even Americans can discover honor.
[THE CHECKLIST: 11 outta 25]
[ ] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor”
[ ] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[X] Crotch Attack
[ ] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are
[ ] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[ ] Factory/Warehouse
[ ] Giant Explosion(s)
[X] Heavy Artillery
[X] Improvised Weapon(s)
[ ] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[ ] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)
[ ] Manly Embrace(s)
[ ] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting
[X] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[X] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[X] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[X] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[ ] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[ ] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[X] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[ ] Tis The Season
[X] Torture Sequence(s)
[ ] Unnecessary Sequel
[X] Vehicle Chase(s)
[X] Vigilante Justice
These Two. A Surprisingly Bad-Ass Team.
The Challenge (1982) © CBS Theatrical Films, Embassy Pictures Corporation and CBS/Fox Home Video