Karate Girl (2011)

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“On the plus-side, this does have a plot. On the other hand, you kinda wish they hadn’t bothered.”

The film manages to cram just about every cliché of martial-arts films into its 92 minutes, with a plot driven by four major threads:
a) You killed my father, and must pay.
b) You run a rival school, and must pay.
c) You are generally not a nice person, and must pay.
d) You kidnapped my sibling, raising them as one of your own and training them in your evil techniques, before sending them out to kill me. Oh, and you must pay for this too, naturally.

Ayaka Kurenai (Takeda) can only watch as her father, a master of karate, is killed in front of her very young eyes, and her sister Sakura (Tobimatsu) is dragged away by the perpetrators. A decade or so later, Ayaka goes viral after using her skills to stop purse-snatchers in the cinema where she works, an event that brings her to the attention of Tagawa Shu (Keisuke), the man behind it all. He still covets the family belt, having apparently missed it when killing the man and kidnapping his daughter. He sends out some minions to verify if she is who she seems – then when that’s done, plays his trump card, revealing he has Sakura, in his evil grasp. Little does he reckon that Sakura’s family loyalties run deeper than all the training the Evil Dojo can drive into her…

Yeah, the plot is a load of pants, and the acting is nothing to write home about – it’s serviceable enough, in line with what you’d expect from a movie with this title. I did enjoy most of the action, and the relaxed style of editing which lets you see the performers and their skill. It doesn’t always work, but enough of it does to make for a generally-entertaining time. British-born Heselton. who looks like a pissed-off Simon Pegg on steroids, comes across well, but the highlight is probably the scene where a pair of Tagawa’s minions go to Ayaka’s karate school, and take on, first her classmates, then her, in an effort to flush her true talent and ancestry out.

Both Takeda and Tobimatsu show potential here. The latter is another young discovery – the next next generation of action heroines? – and it’s startling to realize she is just 14. Ine suspects child-labour laws must be a good deal laxer in Japan than the West. Let’s just hope their next film isn’t plotted out on the back of a beer-mat.

Dir: Kimura Yoshikatsu
Star: Rina Takeda, Hina Tobimatsu, Horibe Keisuke, Richard William Heselton

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