Re:Born hits hard in the UK
Re:Born starring Tak Sakaguchi (Versus, Yakuza Weapon) and directed by Yuji Shinomura had its UK premiere at the The Fighting Spirit Film Festival in 2017 followed by Eureka Entertainment's 2018 home release.
Immediately below is my original write-up after seeing the film on the big screen, followed by my thoughts on re-visiting it on Blu-ray…
For those familiar with Tak's work, Re:Born's early trailers teased a return to his tough, full-contact style of action which puts both himself and his renowned stunt players through their paces (he broke his own neck filming a long take fight in Yakuza Weapon!). This movie also brings him out of retirement having stepped out of the spotlight for a couple of years. Well? He's back!
As a sidenote, I've been a fan of Tak's work for a long time and interviewed him when he visited the UK to promote Yakuza Weapon. You can read that original interview here.
In Re:Born, Toshiro (Tak Sakaguchi) is an elite special forces soldier whose old team is wiped out by a mysterious figure in a mission gone wrong. Having adopted a young girl and now leading a quiet life, Toshiro must return to old habits when former comrades track him down and threaten his life, believing he is responsible for the betrayal. Meanwhile, the real culprit remains elusive and must be found.
The sparse script sets up a slower first half laying out the story but picks up into almost non-stop action from there. Director Yuji Shinomura is a relatively new filmmaker (he helmed Tak's Death Trance) but is the veteran stunt coordinator behind Versus, Alive, Shinobi, Yakuza Weapon and even worked with Donnie Yen's stunt team on Flash Point. So his action credentials are strong and this shows his promise as a director, especially in this genre.
Though the fights draws on different influences, the director and star team worked closely with combat supervisor Yoshitaka Inagawa to craft a new system referred to as "zero range combat". Utilising short blades with very fast strikes and combinations, Tak brutally cuts down enemies in ultra quick succession. The result, especially during the brutal finale in the woods, is like First Blood on amphetamines as Tak and his two sidekicks (but mostly Tak!) eliminates 200+ enemies in an epic kill frenzy. A small criticism is that the choreography in these scenes can become repetitive, however it's a understandable challenge in these scenes. There are only so many ways to skin a goon! But it's a minor gripe as the action is extremely tough, intense and relentlessly harsh, with nice long takes to showcase the complexity and precision.
For any followers of Tak's career or fans of the extreme action design seen in The Raid and Ong Bak, Re:Born is very highly recommended. Hopefully we see more modern-day action of this calibre from Japan.
How about the Home Entertainment release?
The film is presented here as a Dual Format release (with Blu-ray and DVD versions). The best is the slick 1080p presentation which looks very sharp on Blu-ray. The film is aesthetically quite dark and grim, fitting with the tone and story, so don't expect a bright cinematic presentation, but the dark world they portray is shown in the most vivid way here and both the visuals and audio really 'pop' especially during the many intense action scenes.
The only extra on offer is a fun/funny short introduction from the filmmakers. It would've been nice to see more behind-the-scenes material on making the film, the fight training, Tak's long-awaited return or anything that could fill that curiosity void. But, as it stands, this is a slick presentation of a strong, new genre movie which deserves to be seen.
Re:Born is out now on Dual Formats from Eureka Video.