|The Executioner (1974)|
|Starring:||Sonny Chiba, Makato Soto, Eiji Gô and Yutaka Nakajima|
|The Plot: Ryuichi Koga (Sonny Chiba) is the heir to the Koga ninja clan. The last in line for the ancient wisdom of his family’s ninja philosophy, Ryuichi unfortunately was a rather rebellious youth. As a young man, Ryuichi wanted very little to do with this family tradition. However, as he attempted to escape his grandfather’s home, the old man would always block his exit and try to instill in Ryuichi the pride of his family. As a grown man, Ryuichi is then adopted by a non-government enterprise who want to use his impressive skills to take down a Yakuza-led drug trafficking ring. The yakuza are using a Latin American woman, who is protected by diplomatic immunity, to smuggle dope in her carry-on bag. Unfortunately, the last time the police took this case on directly, the department was left incredibly embarrassed with multiple dead police officers. With no evidence pointing to this diplomatically protected young woman, the police commissioner retired alongside his best man in order to save face for the department. While in retirement, he organized this non-government funded force that looks to employ Ryuichi in order to operate outside of the system and gather the proper evidence needed to land a conviction. With a sadist leading this drug ring, Ryuichi will have to team with this oddball police force (of sorts) and defeat an army of evil men!
The movie has a sort of fun goofiness to it that is obvious right from the start of the project. A hodgepodge of cinematic genres, the movie best resembles a Karate spy film of sorts. It begins with a classic training sequence that shows Sonny Chiba having to endure some very harsh lessons in discipline, which he sees as ludicrous. This establishes both his general rebellious nature, as well as his ninja badassery. These two concepts will be heavily relied upon throughout the duration of the movie. Afterward, we are thrown from one fantastical mission to the next. Immediately starting off after this training sequence we watch Chiba, in a lighthearted and funny little romp, help rescue one of his conspirators from prison. At this point in the movie, the tone is fully set for the remainder of the movie. We’ve seen epic violence, we’ve seen the spy-film details (such as Sonny Chiba using a spray glue substance to somehow form a fully usable key inside of a keyhole), and most of all we have seen the exponential amount of comedy at use. This is something you don’t generally expect from Ishii or Chiba, but it works quite well.
The movie quickly hops around from genre aesthetics. It starts off as a traditional martial arts movie, but quickly finds its home as a espionage and spy thriller. There’s an affinity and love shown for the James Bond series here, without a doubt. There are foreigners littered amongst the third-tier cast, and even a joke that may be a reference the title “Octopussy,” there seems to be an attempt to bring out that international feel that the James Bond titles all seem to have. The movie does a solid job in showing off Sonny Chiba’s knack for comedy, which may surprise some folks. Many may not immediately think of Chiba as a versatile actor, but he most certainly was. His role here, which is a mishmash of all the things that he did great, shows his ability to actually be charming while also showing off his athletic abilities. Ryuichi Koga is a egotistical, but dashing, sort of hero.