It begins somewhat like this, boy is happily in love with wife, wife is happily in love with boy, disaster strikes as the pregnant girl is brutally murdered. Boy temporarily loses his sanity trying to avenge her death. Lots of blood, guts and killing splattered all around for good measure…the end.
Scott Adkins has the honour of playing the grieving – yet extremely two dimensional – martial arts hero Casey who struggles to piece together his life following his wife’s untimely death. His motive seems barely plausible considering there’s more spark between a flame and a match than there is between Casey and his love interest Namiko (Mika Hijii). The lack of heat between them is even more of a let down when taking into account the fact that their romance was supposedly fully established in the first movie. Long time friend Nakabara (Kane Kosugi) does his best to help Casey rebuild his life and unmask the killer. Casey’s quest takes him from Osaka to Bangkok where he is forced to face his heartache only to return to an equally unsettling discovery.
Director Isaac Florentine fails to deliver a strong plot with emotional substance. The actors do their best to inject feeling into the deadpan script but all the brooding and fits of rage struggle to make up for it. Subsequently what is left is a narrative devised of a collection of (dazzling) martial arts sequences with no real emotive drive. Un-enthralling was Adkin’s Casey as he spent the duration of the movie stomping around like a bear with a sore head as oppose to someone in mourning. A shame, considering the audience spends most of the film trailing his every move with reoccurring characters fleeting in and out of it. Florentine does however offer a wonderfully healthy dose of blood and carnage, never shying away from gruesome acts. Also an added bonus are the faultless fight scenes with spectacularly, expertly executed Ninjitsu moves. Although at times unnecessarily inserted into the plot in what seems like a way of transitioning from one scene to another. However this can be excused, possibly even welcomed as they are crisp and entertaining, drawing the audience into the story in a way the script doesn’t. Fast, well choreographed with an element of poetry, it is the severed limbs-type action and the high quality martial arts that carry the audience through an otherwise borderline entertaining movie. The film also has its fair share of cringing moments to look forward to (Casey’s overzealous effort to assuage Namiko’s craving for ‘black thunder chocolate’ and seaweed comes to mind, not to mention Namiko’s ‘he’s behind you’ pantomime-like death). Jawed El Bernie’s character Lucas provides an unintentional mild source of entertainment as his unrequited man crush on Casey is frequently rebuffed. The brooding hero is quite clearly too busy being broken-hearted to deal with Lucas’ hero-worshipping.
To sum up, a flat film with some worth-watching action sequences and a plot twist that if you’re not quick enough you’ll be pleasantly surprised by.