Bullet Points: Muscle Heat
It is never easy for a son to follow in his famous father’s footsteps. This is probably increasingly difficult if your father is, for all intents and purposes, a ninja master. But for Kane Kosugi, it wasn’t just about getting into the family business, it was about fulfilling his destiny.
Kane made his acting debut in 1983’s Revenge of the Ninja and at just 8 years old he was already getting in on the action. As the 80’s wore on, Kane would continue to star in movies along with his father (and younger brother Shane) like Black Eagle, Pray for Death and 9 Deaths of the Ninja.
Kane’s first big break on his own was as the lead in the Ultraman: The Ultimate Hero series and after that, there was no turning back. Kane was carrying on the Kosugi acting tradition on television and in the movies, including the subject of this edition of Bullet Points, 2002′ Muscle Heat.
- I Want A New Drug: After being court-martialed by the United States Navy, it appears that Joe Jinno (Kane Kosugi) will be in prison for the rest of his life. As a Navy SEAL, Joe refused to kill some of the children who were considered hostiles by his superiors. But a high ranking detective from Japan, Aguri Katsuragi (Shô Aikawa), pulls some strings and calls in some favors and Joe is released into his custody. This was not just a selfless act by Katsuragi. He wanted a man with Joe’s skills and training to help him fight the war on a new drug that has swept Japan, the street name for the drug is blood heat. The drug is highly addictive and destroying Japanese society. The man profiting from the Blood Heat explosion is an evil drug lord named Lai Kenjin (or Rai Kenjin if you believe IMDb). Kenjin isn’t just into the manufacturing of Blood Heat, he also enjoys watching fights to the death in an arena he has built known as the Muscle Dome.
- We Don’t Need Another Hero: One night Aguri and Joe track down Lai Kenjin (Masaya Katô) and are looking to bring him to justice. Things don’t go exactly as planned, Joe and Aguri are separated. Aguri is captured and forced to compete against Lai’s #1 fighter Lee (Ken Lo). The faux hawked Lee destroys Aguri, killing him with the most devastating airplane spin I’ve ever seen in my life. To add insult to injury the lifeless body of Aguri is raised up to the rafters in some sort of sick crucifixion like ceremony. Things just got very personal for Joe, but Lai and his minions aren’t his only worries. Lai’s riches have afforded him some very powerful connections and the authorities have been ordered to shoot Joe at first sight. Fortunately for Joe he has a few allies…
- You’re A Friend of Mine: One of the cops that is on Joe’s side is Aguri’s sister, Akane (Misato Tachibana), she openly defies orders (much like Joe did himself during his SEAL days) and does not shoot Joe as she had been instructed to. Obviously she’d like to see the men who killed her brother brought to justice as much, if not more than Joe so this defiance is completely justified. In addition to Aguri’s help Joe also falls in with an underground anti-Blood Heat group referred to as The Sewer Rats. But when it comes down to it, Joe is going to have to go it alone as he steps into the Muscle Dome with the menacing Lee to avenge the death of his friend Aguri. The last 20 minutes or so of the film features the fighting skills of second generation action superstar Kane Kosugi and it is easily the best part of the movie. Kosugi’s Joe battles Lee, a completely unexpected opponent and last but not least the drug kingpin himself Lai Kenjin!
My biggest gripe with Muscle Heat was that the plot seemed convoluted at times. Now I’m not sure if they were actively trying to give this movie a deeper message or if some of the finer plot points were lost in translation, but there seemed to be a lot of time wasted with scenes that really went nowhere and featuring forgettable characters.
If I could go back in time I would call director Ten Shimoyama and say, “Ten, I think if you cut out about 20 minutes of the pointless plot and instead throw in some more awesome Kane Kosugi fight scenes, you’ll find you have a better movie.” But with my luck, the 1 hour and 33 minute movie would come back as a 2 hour movie with more convoluted scenes than ever before and not a single bonus fight scene. And speaking of bonus material, who is ready for some Bonus Bullet Points!?
- AKA: Muscle Heat was released on DVD as Blood Heat in the United States. This title actually makes more sense, since the movie is about a drug named Blood Heat.
- TBS Original: Muscle Heat is a TBS produced film. No, not the superstation launched by Ted Turner in the 1970’s, but the Tokyo Broadcasting System.
- If You Ever: …wanted to see the main villain in an action movie violently kill a guy with rude table manners, then this is the movie for you. This scene also serves as a cautionary tale to anyone who chews with their mouth open.
- Previously on Muscle Dome: Prior to Joe’s fight with Lee in the Muscle Dome, Lee’s fight with Aguri Katuragi is shown on the giant video screens.
- Subtitled For Your Pleasure: The song that plays over the closing credits is subtitled just in case you want to sing along in English to Full of Harmony’s “Casino Drive”.