Yudai Yamaguchi’s “ONE-PERCENTER” – 2023 BIFAN Review

Tak Sakaguchi stars in “ONE-PERCENTER.” (still courtesy of the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival)

Those expecting a Yudai Yamaguchi signature blood splatter gorefest in the director’s latest will instead be treated to a more thoughtful, deliberately paced story in “ONE-PERCENTER.” The plot focuses on the physical feats and psychological makeup, in equal measure, of Toshiro Takuma (Tak Sakaguchi), an aging action star who fancies himself as a larger than screen warrior of sorts. Past interviews from Toshiro’s glory days reveal a brash confidence with no qualms in suffering for his art – even if it means literally tossing as many fellow actors to the side as possible.  This approach catches up to him in the present day, when his antiquated pre-special effects methods label him an out-of-touch has-been. A last-ditch attempt to make his dream film project with his devoted apprentice Akira lands him on a distant island where he has to compete with another film crew for cinematic turf…and then with other sudden enemies neither group bargained for.

If, hypothetically, one looked in the dictionary for the phrase “brooding street martial artist with a heavy past,” Tak Sakaguchi‘s name would be at the top of the list for pretty much any work requiring that type of character. A longtime Yamaguchi collaborator, Sakaguchi brings his no-frills, gimmick eschewing fighting style to the director’s first feature film in six years. In the past, Sakaguchi has engaged in some extraordinary feats of film such as a 77-minute long sequence done in one take (“Crazy Samurai Musashi,” 2020). His role as Toshiro is a very welcome turn that sees Sakaguchi play a more dimensional character that comes full circle as he pursues his dream upper echelon of action stardom: the top one percent.

“ONE-PERCENTER” screens on July 6 at 10:30 a.m. at the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival. To purchase tickets, go to bifan.kr.

Video: “ONE-PERCENTER” Trailer