One-Percenter (2024)

Director: Yudai Yamaguchi

Running Time: 85 Minutes

Certification: 15

Starring: Tak Sakaguchi, Kohei Fukuyama, Kanon Narumi, Rumika Fukuda, Norihisa Hiranuma, Sho Aoyagi, Togo Ishii

To set the scene for his latest film, writer/director Yudai Yamaguchi opens on an interview with action star turned director Toshiro Takuma (Tak Sakaguchi). The creative has finished making his film, 'Birth', which he created to disregard choreography in favour of a realistic depiction of on-screen action. As he pushes himself and his martial arts mastery to the extreme, Toshiro shares his hopes to make a 100% pure action film by training his co-stars in what he calls "realism action."

Those hopes for on-screen realism feel so distant once the film cuts to the present day. A decade has passed since 'Birth' was released, and the confidence that Toshiro previously exuded has dulled. He is working on his first film in ages and, knowing that he cannot fail this job, must "dumb down" the action as requested by a director eager to humiliate him in front of the crew. While Toshiro's aspirations left him respected for his craft, it also turned other filmmakers against him and resulted in a difficulty to find him work.

It is clearly eating him up inside to be working on something reliant on choreography and wire work, yet it spurns the creative onto making a new film. Joined by his apprentice, Akira (Kohei Fukuyama), Toshiro begins planning his new film. As they scout a remote island as a potential filming location, the day is interrupted by warring Yakuza gangs who do not care about collateral damage. While others are fearful of the situation, Toshiro sees this as the perfect opportunity to show off his skills and make his new film.

With this starring vehicle for Sakaguchi, whose real-life experiences on making 2016's Re:Born are mirrored in the lead's backstory, Yamaguchi has crafted an action film that is commenting on martial arts cinema and the artifice behind many productions. This adds another layer to how the lines blur between fiction and reality for the lead while explaining why the feature grows more fantastical and falls into action movie tropes, although this can feel taken too far with an unnecessary addition near the end.

From an assassination squad composed of retired commandos, to a bloodthirsty character working through her self-loathing as a killer's daughter, familiar elements are noticeable throughout courtesy of the infighting Yakuza carving a destructive paths. This results in a hero being in the wrong place at the wrong time, with the Die Hard comparisons continuing as a walkie-talkie conversation involves the hero being nicknamed after a Hollywood star. The combative nature spills out into thrilling fights which are tremendously brought alive, making a stunning case for the realist action the film has been championing. One gets the impression that Sakaguchi fans will get more out of this work than others, yet for those less aware, One-Percenter is a thrilling feature.

One-Percenter is available on Blu-Ray and Digital now