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Directed by: Adrian Carr
Starring: Richard Norton, Rochelle Ashana, Judy Green, and Toshishiro Obata
When Zac Connors (Norton), a Navy man trained in the deadly Japanese arts, decides to look into his family genealogy and history of military service, he discovers the whereabouts of an extremely valuable samurai sword that was lost towards the end of World War II. After enlisting the help of Navy Information Officer Billie (Green), Connors sets off to Thailand to recover the precious sword. He then gets help from local woman Suay (Ashana) and recovers the sword. The only downside: Evil Japanese gangster and fellow sword enthusiast Yamaguchi (Obata) wants the sword, and is willing to do anything to get it, including sending a melange of baddies, goons, and ninjas after Connors. After they kidnap Suay, Connors puts on his Revenge Outfit and prepares for the final showdown with Yamaguchi for ultimate swordisfaction. Who will chop and slice their way to justice?
Likable action star Richard Norton - as both us and other people have described him - remains likable for this particular outing, and his presence helps the movie out a lot. It’s a solid actioner with a nice 80’s vibe (gotta love those framed Reagan pictures on the wall in official buildings). It is overlong at 100 minutes and gets slow at times - the simple plot of ‘get the sword, the baddies want the sword’ is tough to maintain at such a length - but the non-frenetic, steady pace isn’t necessarily a bad thing and it does eventually deliver the goods, mainly thanks to Norton.
Villagers watch him intently as he practices his Sai techniques in the village square and clap for him when he’s done, he battles the local champion, a man named Chai, and he gets into a fruit-cart car chase with the baddies except he is riding a go-kart! We can’t say we’ve ever seen that before, and he did look like a 9-year-old kid in the process, which naturally recalled Kick Fighter (1989) - where he really DID play a 9-year-old kid! But all his trials, tribulations, and challenges are nothing when it comes to deciphering Yamaguchi’s - or should we say Toshishiro Obata’s - mega-thick accent. It’s literally impossible to tell if he’s speaking Japanese or broken English most of the time. His accent is SO thick, it was really funny. We give him props for trying, and the filmmakers for not having a problem with it. But everyone just ignores it. No one ever says “I can’t understand you”. They might do this in real life. I guess it’s all part of the fantasy world of ‘Bushido. For the record, no one yells out “BUSHIDOOOOOooooooo!!!!!” in this movie. Just an advance warning.
This was the only theatrical screenplay for writer James Wulf Simmonds, who otherwise exclusively worked in TV. Maybe that explains the pacing? Co-star Judy Green was in the rare Get the Terrorists (1987) and has a solid connection with Richard Norton - they went on to star together in Under the Gun (1995) and Mr. Nice Guy (1997), and then she became Mrs. Richard Norton in 1993. Maybe it was his skill with weapons or his witty one-liners, but no one can resist his charm.
Featuring some beautiful Thailand locations and the end-credits song “Until Now” by Michael Buday, Joe Repiscak and Jim Learned, Sword of Bushido could have been trimmed down for a leaner and meaner attack, but as it stands, it’s a competent and worthy addition to the Norton canon.
Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty