In Karate Warriors, (roughly translated into Killing Fist with Child) Sonny Chiba plays knight-errant to a young boy whose father is Chiba's rival. As I already mentioned, Karate Warriors is a loose remake of Yojimbo borrowing the rival gangs device and recycling the deceitfulness of our story's hero as he plays both sides in an effort to get rich quick. The motivation of brotherly love turned sour? Heroin. In this film which is often labeled a prequel of sorts to The Street Fighter, Sonny Chiba displays his convictions with incredible fortitude. Sure, he's a ragtag karate warrior who steals rice cakes from little Asian boys but that didn't stop him from murdering some 20-30 people with only his fists and a samurai sword in a beach bloodbath that will forever resound as one of the most engaging no-rules brawls this side of Chinatown. That, and he did it for a hollow love that is unknown to our hero. Karate Warriors excels in all categories because it is heartfelt and ruthless in one sitting; a breezy sexploitation with much violence and enlightenment - equally.
As of recent I've been on a huge Sonny Chiba kick, indulging in such classics as The Bodyguard, Virus, Golgo 13 (again), G.I. Samurai, and the currently presented Karate Warriors. The problem with most of these films are the American releases are littered with terrible English dubs over the original, authentic Japanese audio track. These leaves terrible room for humiliating interpretation as Sonny Chiba's American counterparts always sound ridiculous and gaudy. The majesty of Chiba is his incredible dexterity and flexibility. His roundhouse kicks bring about this illicit form of fluid contact that is just something you can't explain with the limitations of language. If there ever was a martial arts physical performer, Sonny Chiba would be the headliner; top billing and all.
When you level the field of Chiba within eye sight it's hard to sift the classics through the heap of supporting roles he portrayed. While I enjoy any helping of Chiba and I'm hardly picky, I demand a certain amount of screen time to be interested. Karate Warriors is one of his best films never seen by the commercial viewers eye, which is a shame. I've rarely seen a martial arts classic like this that braves the profitable sex nature of Japan while appealing to the Chiba enthusiast. Knowing Japan and it's sexual proclivities, I'd be hard pressed to deny that Karate Warriors is one of the most true-to-form and gutsiest martial arts films without treading into Shaw Brothers territory. If you enjoy Sonny Chiba as much as the next bargain-bin dweller then Karate Warriors is an absolute necessity. It's only fair to me that my two favorite action stars, Bruce Willis and Sonny Chiba, act in both the same film. Viva Chiba!