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The Challenge (1982)

--Review by Nic Brown--

Scott Glenn and Legendary Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune were paired together in the 1982 film “The Challenge”. The movie tells the story of an American Boxer who’s a bit down on his luck but thinks that is changing when he is hired as a courier for a sword that is being smuggled back into Japan. Rick (Scott Glenn) does not know that the sword is one of a pair of family “honor” swords, which were stolen by one brother from the other just before World War II. The thief, Hideo Yoshido (Atsuo Nakumura) then lost the sword to an American G.I. when he was captured during the war.

Unlike Hideo who is now a powerful businessman/Yakuza boss, his brother Toru Yoshida (Toshiro Mifune) maintains the family’s honor and embraces the traditional ways as he runs the family martial arts school. Toru’s side of the family found and retrieved the sword in America, and seeks to reunite it with the other honor sword, but first they must get it back to Japan. With Yoshido watching, a patsy is needed to get the sword into Japan. They hire Rick which drops him into the middle of not only the Yoshida family’s civil war, but also into an unfamiliar culture as he must adapt to life in Japan.


This film seemed to fall off the radar, good luck even finding it today on DVD or video, which is a real shame. The acting is first rate by all parties, the action is intense and yet the story is surprisingly strong and detailed. Filmed mostly in and around Kyoto and Osaka Japan, the movie vividly shows the struggle between modernization and tradition not only in the Yoshida family, but also in Japan itself. The Kyoto Convention Center is used as Hideo’s corporate headquarters and its futuristic, yet distinctly Japanese design is a stark contrast to the traditional family home and Dojo of Toru’s side of the family.


The heart of the film is the story of honor for both the Yoshida family and Rick as his character grows and changes with his experiences. Of course the sword play and martial arts are first rate thanks to a young Steven Seigal who was the film’s martial arts coordinator. I give “The Challenge” eight out of ten for lots of action, some predictable romance, good acting and an involving story. This is one of my favorite films of this genre and you should check it out! Banzai!!!!

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