Review: Hydra (2019)

Starring Masanori Mimoto, Miu, Tasuke Nagase

Fight Choreography by ?

Directed by Kensuke Sonomura

Nowadays we just don’t get many Japanese martial arts films, but every once and a while we get a great one like Black Belt and more. Director Sonomura jumps into the game with Hydra.

It’s a good showcase, with one flaw. A big one.

Hydra is the name of the Tokyo bar owned by Rina, a young woman whose father left it to her when he suddenly disappeared without word. Working as her cook is the mysterious Takashi (Mimoto) a quiet man who tends to keep to himself and barely says a word unless spoken directly to. As one can guess, Takashi isn’t what he seems. He’s a retired assassin who wants to live in peace after being betrayed by the agency he works for, the Tokyo Life Group, who do away with corrupt officials and anyone else the deem a bad guy. Soon Takashi’s past catches up to him, and it soon envelops Rina as Takashi moves fast to save her from an unknown assassin bent on killing him. But why? And how does he know about Takashi’s past?

The film moves at a good pace for a thriller, and the actors do a fine job. Mimoto is able to go from unassuming to killing machine believably, and while at first I thought he didn’t fit the part he quickly put that at ease with an excellent performance, using his physicality and eyes to convey just how dangerous he is. Miu does an adequate job as Rina, but she isn’t given enough to do. The other actors do well with their parts, and while I’d like to get into them in depth, that would require me to reveal some thing better left finding out on your own.

That leads me to what bothered me about the film. The story literally stops before we a) find out who some of the villains are b) two characters are killed off screen and we don’t know exactly what happened and c) how one character seems to return to life and suddenly goes Matrix-y and dodges bullets, which is fine for a fantasy or sci-fi film, but that’s not what this film is up to that point. It’s apparent the story is meant to continue in a sequel, but it left me unsatisfied with the story. This is infuriating as Sonomura and writer Jiro Kaneko created a great world I wanted to explore a lot more.

The faults in the story is a shame, because the fight scenes, though a little scarce, are right on point, mixing knife fighting with Jiu-Jitsu/Judo fighting styles, and the performers move fast, so much so it’s almost ( I can’t believe I’M saying this) too fast. I had to rewatch the fights to get it all in, but they are well, well done. Some of the fights end in a downright novel fashion. Have a character smash a drink can and use it as a knife to slash someone’s throat? It’s there. How about a martial arts fight using a broken toothbrush? They gotcha covered! How about a kick to the nuts so fast and hard the receiver pukes his lunch? Oh yeah.

Oh yeah, this film shows just how bad it is to get killed while your in the middle of pissing. Not cool, man. Not cool.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 6

Sonomura had the makings of a really good film, but was too concerned with setting up a series of films rather than concentrate on telling a complete story with the first film. Here’s hoping he gets to make the next film.