‘Roaring Fire’ Review: Hamlet with Martial Arts

Posted in Screening Room by - April 19, 2016

Roaring Fire is about a young man who embarks on a quest for revenge after he learns his uncle is responsible for the death of his family, and has also stolen their heritage. Hamlet, anyone? This movie never, ever takes itself seriously. Everything is tongue-in-cheek and for exploitation purposes. Gratuitous nudity? Check. Nazi villains? Check. Impractical bloodshed? Check. It’s even more fun if you choose to watch it with an English dub that doesn’t really synch with the actor’s mouths. If none of that is your bag, chances are you probably won’t find much to enjoy in this film.

And truth is that it is sloppily made. So many movies of this kind have technical mistakes that have since been parodied or imitated, and I do wonder if the reason behind them is technical incompetence or low budget or both. There are sudden abrupt stops in the music or the sound, the sound suddenly goes off, splashing in ocean water sounds like someone splashing in a bathtub, you get the idea. The story itself is a very basic revenge plot of having the lead character fight al the baddies he can find, before getting on to fight against the boss. It’s a repetitive structure that does grow a little exhausting. Fundamentally, the story is predictable. It’s nothing special and truth is, the fights are so humorous and the drama so overwrought that it becomes difficult to take seriously. And yet the movie remains entertaining. It’s never boring in any way. You can watch it with friends and make fun of it, while also genuinely enjoying it.

Part of this is also Hiroyuki Sanada as lead character Jiro. He’s very charismatic and funny, and nicely carries the film. So you may be wondering why are we reviewing this film, and that’s because it features Abdullah the Butcher in a minor but memorable role. He makes a nice rival and later partner to Hiroyuki. The rest of the cares fares well; Etsuko Shimoni gets a bit of a thankless role as Chihiro, and she doesn’t get to do much but everyone has a lot of cool, shining moments that make the movie more fun. If you are a Sonny Chiba fan and you are expecting a lot of him, you will be disappointed. He’s not in this movie very much. It’s Sanada’s movie through and through, and it’s hard to complain given the quality of his performance and charisma.

But overall can I recommend it? It’s hardly what I’d call a good film. But it’s always enjoyable, and if you are into exploitation fare, you will get a kick out of it and you could do a lot worse given similar films of the same ilk. There’s a charm to Roaring Fire that’s very appealing, but in terms of martial arts and overall technique it’s pretty lacking. So nothing special, but I’m giving it a very marginal “see it.” Just know exactly what you’re getting into.

Final Say: SEE IT.

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