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Dancing Karate Kid ("Ryukyu Batoru Rowaiaru")

Canadian Premiere
  • Japan
  • 2013
  • 78 mins
  • HD
  • Japanese
  • English (subtitles)
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Official Selection, Hawaii International Film Festival 2013

Ken, an aspiring dancer, is visiting Okinawa so that he can develop his art while making afew bucks performing in public. A few “boombox” hits to the head will quickly teach him that he should keep some level of humility. Shinjyo, a veteran dancer that caught Ken’s act, offers him lessons in Ryukyu dancing as well as a place to stay during his visit. The young man, however, will soon be facing a most unpredictable pickle. First there’s Misako, Shinjyo’s granddaughter, who comes on to him violently, compelling him to toughen up. Then comes Yonamine, eager to replace Shinjyo as sensei of the dojo. His courtship of Misako is constantly thwarted due to his tropically hairy chest. The old man, however, is not an ordinary dancer. He is a master of Ryukyu karate, and through his lessons, Ken unknowingly transforms himself into a seasoned karate kid. Once he discovers that he can seriously hold his own in a fight by mixing dancing with karate, he’ll be forced to face the region’s greatest masters and maybe even win Misako’s heart in the process.

Prepare to discover the future of the Japanese action film. A dancer, acrobat and karate specialist at only 18 years old, Joey has already been praised by such big names as Prachya Pinkaew (ONG BAK) and Stephen Chow (KUNG FU HUSTLE). He tears up the screen in DANCING KARATE KID, projecting an undeniable charisma as he forms a sexy duo with popular model Yui Koike, whose performance is simply hilarious. Director Tsukasa Kishimoto can also rely on karate masters Akihito Yagi (BLACK BELT, screened at Fantasia 2008) and Shingo Koyasu, a former Japanese champion, to create several groundbreaking action sequences that are absolutely mesmerizing. However, a film fusing dance and martial arts must also be heavy on rhythm. While the mixture of electro beats with traditional music works flawlessly, it’s the dialogue’s tempo which makes DANCING KARATE KID stand out, alternating between frenzied exchanges and awkward silences that support an absurd, sometimes even sketchy, sense of humour (you’ll recognize a bathroom rendition of Mr. Miyagi’s “Wax on, wax off”). Jaw-dropping dance numbers, a flood of jokes amongst the funniest you’ll see all year and eye-popping action scenes are all part of the package that is DANCING KARATE KID, an off-the-chain action-comedy with one indispensable lesson: we can have tons of fun at the movies.

— Nicolas Archambault