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on April 11, 1999
In my humble opinion, the 2nd best modern-type martial arts film ever made (after Bruce Lee's "Enter The Dragon").

Whereas "Enter The Dragon" was Chinese/Western cultural, "The Challenge" is Japanese/American cultural. East meets West in a big and hard way.

Two brothers have been feuding over possession of 2 family heirloom swords for over 35 years. These are some of the finest katana ever made, and they are over 500 years old. One brother (the bad guy) is (in 1982) a super rich tycoon who has forgotten his Samurai heritage and honor, while the other brother (Mifune, the good guy) has become one of Japan's most revered Samurai Senseis.

The Brother's father had been in the process of ceremonially handing over the Swords to the Good Brother (in 1945) when the Bad Brother steals them, and does something else dreadful in the process.

Two years later, the Bad Brother looses one of the pair of swords to his American captors in the closing days of WWII. This sword is taken to America as a souvenir.

Both brothers have spent the next 35 years tracing this sword, and finally it is found in LA in 1982. Scott Glen plays a has-been pro boxer hired by one of the brothers to help smuggle the sword back into Japan. Once in Japan, Glen gets caught up in the war between the brothers, a war he does not understand due to his American background. But gradually, as he learns more about Japanese culture, and more specifically, as he becomes immersed in the culture of "Bushido", he not only comes to understand, but then accepts as his own all the precepts of the way of the warrior.

Definitely on of my favorite films. Lots of action, some profanity, and very mild sex. And one of the best modern presentations of the Samurai culture ever made. You can see Toshiro Mifune's fingerprints all over it (he also produced the film).
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on November 28, 1999
This movie has it all. It's an incredible but realistic story of life and death. Good vs Evil. Honor vs Glory. Toshiro Mifune is his usual collosal character. Scott Glenn plays the appropriately strong but vulnerable pawn. I saw this movie in 1984 and remember it vividly. Perfect for martial arts lovers or just anybody.
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on January 7, 2003
This is a fascinating & kick-ass movie for anyone interested in Japanese swordplay, & especially great for us stupid Americans (gaijin) who don't know our butts from a brick about the subject, because it's a film ABOUT a gaijin who gets caught up in the middle of a generations-old violent family dispute over a mysterious pair of very important & impressive swords. Scott Glenn (Silence of the Lambs) is an American boxer recruited to smuggle an ancient sword into Japan. Upon arrival he is taken by thugs who explain that the sword he was hired to smuggle is one of a pair of swords known as "The Equals"-- swords passed down from generation to generation in a powerful Japanese bloodline. During the last passing-down ceremony, one of two brothers bloodily ambushed the ceremony, wanting The Equals for his own. Banished, he has become a ruthless & powerful modern business warrior. The other brother has stayed true to his ancient heritage & now trains others in tradition & a myriad of ancient fighting arts, including mastery of the sword. Glenn is forced to choose between the brothers to reunite The Equals & bring an end to this long and bloody feud, one way or another. Along his journey, he(& thus vicariously the viewer)is taught a wealth of knowledge about the ways of both ancient & modern Japanese power and lifestyle. It's a fascinating education that never leaves your intelligence insulted. On top of all this, the action scenes are at once brutal, graceful, thrilling, inventive, never escaping the realm of realism, & just damn astonishing. An outstanding film, The Challenge is one of my all-time favorites.
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on December 30, 2005
After the Shogun mini series aired on American tv in the late '70s there became an American fascination with all things Japanese. In the early '80s Hollywood was eager to cash in on the Ninja boom and there were a tons of Samurai/Ninja movies ranging from decent to downright awful. The Challenge however deserves some praise while other films of the genre don't.

The Challenge was directed my John Frankenheimer (Ronin, The French Connection II) and is a little known gem of the "Samurai movie boom" in America. The story opens with a broke boxer named Rick (Scott Glenn) who is paid to smuggle a sword back into Osaka, Japan. Little does he know that he has just involved himself in a family feud battling over the ownership of a pair of swords. Toshiro Mifune plays the patriarch of a large family who live in "the good, traditional way" while his rival, bad brother, Atsuo Nakamura, heads a multi national company . Both brothers are determined to get their hands on each others swords to reunite the pair of blades.

One has to admire Frankenheimer for his quick cinematography of Japan. The busses, the street shots and the long views could be just about anywhere in Japan and at times it seems like he deliberately tried to avoid any signs that might give away the actual location of each shot. However all the quick shots leave us nothing to desire about Japan. Granted, filming in Japan in the '80s cost a small fortune and the red tape to even get filming permission to film anywhere must have been a nightmare. Even for those who live in Japan might have a very hard time finding any visible landmarks in the movie....save Sanjo Station in Kyoto, Itami Airport and the Kyoto International visitors center....where the main battle takes place.

The Challenge refreshingly doesn't spend a lot of time dealing with the stereotypical "east vs. west" and the oh so tired "the foreign fish out of water in Japan". Scott Glenn does a great job of playing a naive foreigner who knows nothing about his new world, but doesn't go over the top by over analyzing every little Japanese custom as an odd opposite of "superior" Western culture. Unlike other films of the same genre, there isn't any deep, Japanese Samurai ,philosophy that most films of the era try to enthrall Western viewers with. Yes, it does deal with family honor and the ever popular Western fantasy view that all Japanese have this over emotional, all powerful, love of the Japanese sword. The idea that a family in 1980's Kyoto dressing in traditional clothing and practicing martial arts every waking moment of every day waiting for a battle is....well...laughable and that security guards carry machine guns is beyond realistic.

The only famous Japanese actors are Toshiro Mifune who is legendary and Atsuo Nakamura, who is only really known in Japan and I am pretty sure his English was dubbed for this film. Donna Kei Benz plays the love interest Akiko, who seems really miscast and her acting is awkward. The best line in the whole film is by the Henchman Ando, played by Calvin Jung, who says "I don't understand these people (japanese) either. Every time I come here I understand less and less about them".

Why this movie isn't on DVD is beyond me. There are old video copies being sold for ridiculous prices for this rare, out of print film. I got mine in Japan after a long, seemingly endless search. Luckily, there were English subtitles in the few places where Japanese is spoken. Why this film was ever re-released as "Sword of the Ninja" is slightly insane....since there are NO Ninja in the film and the title alone does the film a discredit.
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on January 31, 2006
I first saw this movie as I was just getting into watching martial arts movies and started as a build-up for me because I really did enjoy watching this film. I didn't expect the movie to be so good with the storyline.

This movie is about two japanese brothers, one a traditional samurai and the other is a powerful businessman...both men are fighting over a set of ancient family swords. The american (Scott Glenn) is a washed up boxer who is brought in by the one of the businessman's associates as a courrier (and planked thief) and becomes involved wiith the battle after he is taken in as a guest (not prisoner) by the samurai's after trying to steal the sword from them! He eventually develops the fighting arts quickly and in the meantime is learning about their code of honor as well which is what he learns to respect.

The amount of action and gore in this movie is awesome, and the story is that good it even has room for a little boy who is training to be a samurai warrior and a memerable scene (in my opinion) is when the american first fights with a member of the samurai one on one but as the american is getting his ass -kicked he is showing heart although still loses to a greater opponent and takes it like a man. Then turns to the leader and asks him for training...gotta love it.

I highly recommend this if you enjoyed watching Last Samurai with Tom Cruise.
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on July 15, 2006
As one earlier reviwer mentioned, this film showed aikido long before Seagal made it commonplace on U.S. screens but actually STEVEN SEAGAL WAS THE FIGHT CO-ORDINATOR AND COREAGRAPHER FOR THIS FILM!! It's true!! Toshiro Mifune was shocked when he saw Seagal on the first day of filming and reportedly grabbed a phone to complain and express his utter disbelief that some big gaijin had been sent by the Martial Arts Dojo he had personally selected to handle the fight scenes.....instead of coming himself the Teacher had sent his best student, Seagal.

He bluntly said as much to the stunned Mifune and then hung up.

Mifune decided to bide his time and see what the young giant was capable of......

By the time the film wrapped Mifune's concerns were long gone and he was well satisfied the intense action scenes would thrill and satisfy his fans and the wider world.

That this film has not yet been formatted for DVD is a crying shame
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on March 1, 2016
Great Movie, nicely cleaned up. The plot is not quite what the product description says about the feud. The fight is more over Traditional vs New in Japan. Backstory: One brother is traditional, clan leader. The other is new, was an officer in the Pacific for Japan and lost the family heirloom sword after stealing it. Both searched until it was found by the son of the traditional master. This is where Glen comes in as a bit of a washed up boxer, paid to be a courier. After what happens to him when he gets to Japan, he wants some payback and asks to be trained after realizing just how small he was. *Skipping ahead so as to not ruin several scenes*, it culminates in a three way sword fight. The sword technique is excellent, as is the "growing up" that Glen does. Mifune is excellent as always. Anyone who likes sword, Mifune, Glen, Japan or oriental philosophy will likely like and watch several times, getting a little more each time. Enjoy.
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on September 27, 2004
Now I'm a die hard Toshiro Mifune fan and I must say even though the setting caught me off guard with the samurai prowling a around with his katana (sword) in and out of elevators...the movie held it's own. The setting did not take anything away from the story. Its about and an american getting caught up in a 37 year old fight over a pair of special swords between two brothers. Even at 62yrs old Toshiro Mifune was in great from and delivered an extraordinary performance as usual. Glen Scott was not to be out done either. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. Why aren't they making more readily available? I practically had to mine for it as I would treasure.
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on March 10, 2016
Old movie well done on Blu-ray. Good storyline, especially if you understand Japanese philosophy about pride and honor (Bushido). Good martial arts and sword action that is natural and believable. There's good and bad in all nationalities and countries. I'm a third generation Japanese American from Hawaii and this movie made me proud to be both.
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on August 14, 2013
I won't go into the story. Others have done a fine job on that. I was just beginning my own training in martial arts when I found this gem in a local video store and I was so glad I did. Still have my original VHS copy I bought back then. The ironic part is that John Frankenheimer is one of the most lauded director's in Hollywood history and this film is a great example of his art and yet, why is it not on DVD? A recent Criterion release of his has come out on Blu-Ray called "Seconds" so why has this been ignored? It is every bit as good as "Ronin" if not better. I feel that because this was released during the period when so many schlock martial art films were released, it was sadly over looked and never got the attention it deserved. By the way, Steven Seagal did a magnificent job as martial arts choreographer. If you get the chance to see this do so. You won't regret it. This is just an addendum 3 years later.....YAAAAY they are releasing the movie on Blu-Ray finally!!!
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