Karate Kiba (1973)

Directed by
Grimy and stylish
Reviewed by Simon on 2023-12-16

After stopping a hijacking with extreme prejudice a karate master named Kiba takes advantage of the media attention to pitch his services as a bodyguard. The first client is a mysterious woman who has had a target painted on her by the Italian mafia. In his role as protector he is drawn into her world.

KARATE KIBA is a delightful slice of 1970's Japanese grindhouse cinema, grimy and violent and oozing with style. The cinematography is dazzling, utilizing dramatic camera angles, stark lighting contrast and layered depth of field to create intense visual style compositions. The soundtrack pops off too.

The action is - this may be controversial - a bit of a weak point. Sonny Chiba's style has always tended to be more wild and erratic than the carefully choreographed dance of Hong Kong martial arts, and here it runs up against the camera's own erratic movements and angles, making the flow and topography of the fights hard to follow. It's hard to tell what's happening, but at least the gruesome results are plain to see. This film rivals The Streetfighter for the brutality of its violence.

In terms of the overall package KARATE KIBA is one of Sonny Chiba's best, and it's a must see for fans of 1970's grindhouse style.

I need to rewatch the Takashi Miike Bodyguard Kiba films again... I remember them being decent but very tame compared to the Chiba originals.