Unlike his previous actioner Crazy Samurai Musashi (2020) where he took on 400 opponents, Tak Sakaguchi has downsized his adversaries for his latest starring vehicle, satirical actioner One-Percent Warrior a.k.a. One Percenter. Playing a thinly veiled version of himself, One-Percent Warrior not only allows Sakaguchi to send up his own career but also poke fun at the action genre in general.

When I say satirical, the film isn’t a full on comedy even if it is being advertised as one. It does have some comedic jibes as well as featuring some over the top performances, but at its core it’s still a full on martial arts film. Writer/Director Yudai Yamaguchi has crafted a love letter to the action genre, and while One-Percent Warrior has a fair mix of crazy characters and situations, Yamaguchi doesn’t go too far that it would turn off his audience.  

Yamaguchi playfully takes aim at the likes of the Rurouni Kenshin films, with one early scene showing that type of action as being ridiculously over the top in comparison to Sakaguchi’s more “grounded” fight scenes. I say “grounded” as let’s be honest, as great as Sakaguchi’s fight scenes are, they are just as over the top as what features in the likes of the Rurouni Kenshin films, with him taking on multiple opponents by himself.

One-Percent Warrior is a perfect example of this, with Sakaguchi getting multiple opportunities to show off his combat skills against a group of heavily armed opponents. Although his foes don’t equal the same number as Crazy Samurai Musashi, there are still more than enough disposable enemies for Sakaguchi to take care of.

What sets this film apart from the previous Crazy Samurai Musashi is that it feels like a fully realized film. As enjoyable as Musashi was, it felt more like an experiment, with the main focus being on the long 77 minute uncut action scene. As impressive as this was, it didn’t make for the most well rounded feature. One-Percent Warrior itself utilizes some long takes in the action, but nothing as excessive as Musashi. The camera work here benefits the action rather than restricting it which was sometimes the case in Musashi.

Opening like a faux documentary where veteran action actor Takuma Toshiro (Tak Sakaguchi) explains his style of action filmmaking. The interview is intercut with interviews from actors, stuntmen and private military contractors all exclaiming how great Toshiro’s fighting skills are.

Humorously, this scene put me in mind of the kind of interview Steven Seagal would give, with him making out he is a bonafide killing machine rather than just an actor. If you are to look up some of the supposed real life exploits Sakaguchi has taken part in, you will probably find this scene even funnier. The scene additionally sets up the question whether he is talking shit or can back up his claims, something that becomes apparent in the film later.

After messing up on his most recent gig, Toshiro finds himself at his lowest ebb. Dusting off an old film script, he is able to drum up some interest based on his cult film Birth. This clearly has parallels with Sakaguchi’s real life career, with much of his success being owed to Ryuhei Kitamura’s Versus (2000), a film so popular that fans are still asking for a sequel 24 years later.

The film he is looking to make will showcase what he perceives as real action, utilizing a technique Toshiro has developed called Assassination-jitsu. Able to get an investor on board, Toshiro, accompanied by his last loyal disciple Akira (Kohei Fukuyama), travels to a remote island to scout for locations. With hardly a chance to look around, Toshiro finds himself in the middle of a Yakuza war. Rather than hide away, Toshiro takes this as the perfect chance to test Assassination-jitsu in a real world setting. Informing Akira to film everything, Toshiro starts to take down wave after wave of Yakuza and armed mercenaries.

Like Jean Claude Van Damme’s J.C.V.D (2008), a lot of the fun of One-Percent Warrior is derived from the perceived image of Tak Sakaguchi, with Toshiro coming across as overly serious, willing to do whatever it takes to get his film made. While I do expect there are certain aspects of the real Sakaguchi in Toshiro, he clearly has more of a sense of humor than what is portrayed here. Clearly he is more than willing to send up his image. As well as this, the film also gives Sakaguchi the opportunity to convey his ideas and philosophies around martial arts and on screen action.

Personally, I would say this is one of Sakaguchi’s better roles. He has always been a believable badass, but Toshiro has multiple layers to him which gives the action veteran something to chew on, especially towards the latter stages of the film which I won’t spoil here. Then there’s the action. Sakaguchi may be advancing in years, but he shows no signs of slowing down. The speed and agility he displays is that of someone half his age. One-Percent Warrior features some of the best fight scenes of Sakaguchi’s career.

As great as it is to have an adept martial artist in the lead, quality action movies always need an ace action director/choreographer working behind the scenes. Luckily One-Percent Warrior has one of the best in the business in Kensuke Sonomura. Regular readers may remember me talking up his work previously when I reviewed his directorial debut Hydra (2019).

Sonomura had directed Sakaguchi the year before in Bad City (2022), with Tak playing one of the film’s main villains. Like One-Percent Warrior, Bad City was filled with quality fight scenes, although Sonomura has easily outdid himself here, with this featuring some of his finest work to date. Sonomura adapts each of the fight scenes to make best use of their setting, allowing Sakaguchi to unleash maximum amount of damage. One of the most memorable fight scenes has Sakaguchi using an adjustable wrench against his opponents, with painfully devastating results.

Then there’s the final fight where Sakaguchi goes up against the awesome Ishii Togo. A Jeet Kune Do practitioner, Ishii’s fight against Sakaguchi is a definite highlight with the both of them going at each other full speed. I can’t remember the last time I saw such a fast paced fight scene.

Sakauguchi’s Bad City co-star Masanori Mimoto also shows up here, but is disappointingly short changed in terms of action. Whereas in Bad City he went up against Sakaguchi several times during the film, here he is lumbered with an unmemorable side character and doesn’t get involved in the action as much as anticipated. 

One-Percent Warrior more than exceeded my expectations. There is the odd issue, which is more down to budget limitations than the talents of the filmmakers. Director Yudai Yamaguchi keeps everything moving at a great pace, with everything being streamlined down to its bare essentials, with the runtime coming in just under 90 minutes. A late in the day psychological twist may turn some off but personally I thought it made One-Percent Warrior stand out even further.

One-Percent Warrior is coming soon to Digital and Blu-ray from Well Go USA before going to their streaming platform Hi-YAH! on April 5th. It’s a must have purchase for any martial arts fans but even those not into physical media should definitely check it out when it comes to streaming.

Plot: 4/5
Acting: 4/5
Action: 4/5
Overall: 4/5



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