31 Days, Day 10: PUFF 16’s Best of the Fest… Part Deux

The closing film of PUFF, and with good reason.

karate kill

“Your brother has a black belt in Cirque du Soleil too!?”

I may have spoken too soon when dubbing We Go On the best of the fest a few hours ago. I was admittedly nodding in and out of Karate Kill as it screened last night, and while I was having fun, it didn’t leave me with much of an impact. Thankfully PUFF is really great to press, and I was able to give it a re-watch this afternoon, and I am so glad I did.

This movie is nuts. PUFF promoted it as having “an 80’s Canon film aesthetic” and that hits the nail on the head. This is exploitative, action packed, and slightly absurd – it’s a perfect midnight movie. There’s some truly awesome sequences in this, like a Karate vs Swordsman fight inside the trailer of a speeding 18-wheeler, and they’re all shot and edited for maximum adrenaline and impact. The choreography isn’t always perfect, but that adds to the 80’s charm and is usually mostly hidden in clever camera moves, like a slow, full 360-rotation during a single-take fight.

karate kill

The story is appropriately sleazy for this kind of thing, with villains drunk on wanton violence targeting gorgeous, topless Japanese women. There are training sequences, cheesy sex scenes set to sexy muzak, and more than a handful of goofy one-liners and hilariously on the nose character motivations. But what’s great about taking advantage of that sleazy, midnight aesthetic is it slyly points its finger at those elements being American problems. With some funny gags involving American gun laws, the perception of Americans as slaves to entertainment, blind and numb to its content, and a bit of commentary about immigrating to the US in hopes of stardom only to be let down and taken advantage of, Karate Kill offers some fascinating insight into international perceptions of American culture.

And it’s fun as all hell. My only complaints would be that it’s so true to the Canon aesthetic that it can be slow at times. And there’s a reliance on CGI with the blood and gore that I wish they had accomplished practically. It undercuts some of that aesthetic they’re going for. But overall this is a gem, well worth seeking out and enjoying with some beers and a crowd.


Garrett Smith
Resident Funny Man / Film Geek
Garrett Smith is a Philadelphia based comedian and podcaster surviving on frozen pizza and macaroni and cheese. Follow him on Twitter and Letterboxd to see if he ever develops lactose intolerance, and check out his milky smooth voice on his podcast, I Like To Movie Movie.
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