Known internationally as Muscle Heat and in Japan as Masuuruhito in its Japanese homeland, Blood Heat really gives Kane Kosugi (son of Sho Kosugi, ninja extraordinaire) a decent shot at becoming the next big thing in international action movies.
Set in the not too distant future world of 2009, a former Navy SEAL named Joe Jinno (Kane Kosugi) finds himself court-martialed for disobeying the direct orders of his superiors. After doing some time, Jinno finds himself shipped off to the ghettos of Tokyo, Japan where he is to help out a Japanese police officer named Aguri Katsuragi (V-cinema superstar Sho Aikawa of Takashi Miike's Dead Or Alive trilogy).
Katsuragi's mission it to halt the illegal influx and underground distribution of Blood Heat, a dangerous new steroid drug that boosts your strength tenfold but that has some nasty side effects – mainly turning it's users into homicidal maniacs. Jinno and Katsuragi discover the source of the drug is a dealer named Rai Kenjin. They set out to stop him but their plan doesn't work. That's when they discover and underground Fight Club style arena called the Muscle Dome that Kenjin is running. Here he allows people to use Blood Heat before getting into the steel cage and duking it out for supremacy.
Katsuragi gets in the ring with Lee, the undisputed Muscle Dome champion, and pays dearly for it. Joe sets out to avenge him and recruits Katsuragi's sister, Akane (Makoto Takenaka), and her friend Ken Ishibashi (Noboru Kaneko) whose father was killed in a Muscle Dome bout. The three of them now have to fight their way through the gangsters and the Muscle Dome combatants to stop the drug from taking over…
Blood Heat feels very much like a Hong Kong action film, despite its Japanese origins. The involvement of Chan Man Chin (who worked with Jackie Chan before he decided to make a career out of bad Disney movies) and Sam Wong (another Chan alumni) probably have something to do with that, but either way, it works. The action hits fast and furious when it occurs and once the storyline is set up, it comes at you pretty quickly.
Kosugi has come a long way from his small roles in his father's films like Revenge Of The Ninja and he's got a great on screen chemistry with Sho Aikawa that really gives the film a bizarre 'buddy cop' movie feel at times, but it's the grand finale in which Kane shows off against Masaya Kato (of Crying Freeman fame) that justly delivers the finest moments of the film. It's a brutal fight but one that's expertly choreographed and really makes you feel every punch.
So while the story may be a little predictable and not the most original screenplay ever written, Kane struts his stuff with style and proves his got what it takes to live up to his father's legacy in this film. He may lack some of the charisma that his old man had (though some of that could be attributed to the sweet ninja duds he's known for) but if the action and stunt work (just like Chan, he did all his own stunt work in this movie) that he provides in this film are anything to go by, he's got the skills to really make something of himself and things should only be looking up for him from here on out.
The 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen print is decent, but not without some flaws. A few of the darker scenes are murky looking and some of the colors are a tad flat. There aren't any problems with mpeg compression artifacts though some slight edge enhancement does show up. That being said, there's a nice level of detail visible throughout and the print used for this transfer is very clean as there's no print damage or noticeable flaws with the image in that regard. The issue with the colors is probably a result of the photography and no so much the actual transfer of the movie itself, as the bootleg copy of this same film exhibits the same issue in the same scenes. Overall though, this movie looks really good.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is in its native Japanese language (though a lot of the dialogue is spoken in English throughout the film) and includes optional English subtitles. There are a few spots where the dialogue sounds a little bit muddled but these are the exceptions, not the rule. There's not a whole lot in the way of channel separation going on in the mix but there's also aren't any problems with hiss or distortion. With those aforementioned idiosyncrasies out of the way, this track is fine.
A pretty decent and extensive Behind The Scenes Of Blood Heat featurette clocks in at twenty-six minutes in length and features plenty of great stunt work footage, behind the scenes action shot on the set during filming, and interviews with the stars and the crew of the film. One of the most amusing scenes is when Kane is being interviewed on a boat and in the bridge in the background you can see and hear a multitude of Japanese schoolgirls screaming for him like he's a member of The Beatles.
Also included are a two minute Blood Heat Promotional Featurette that features interviews with Kane and with the film's director, Ten Shimoyama who discuss the stunt work and difficulties in filming some of the action scenes. A Blood Heat Premiere Featurette clocks in at just under eight minutes in length and features all of the key cast members as well as the director discussing their characters and experiences making the film for the Japanese press. There is also a slideshow format image gallery featuring some promotional pieces and behind the scenes photos, as well as four trailers for the feature.
Rounding out the supplements are trailers for Samurai Reincarnation (starring Sonny Chiba), the Korean action-comedy Attack The Gas Station!, the recent ninja film Red Shadow and Takashi Miike's infamous Ichi The Killer.
Blood Heat is a fun martial arts action movie that takes a little while to get going but ultimately delivers some great scenes. Media Blasters/Tokyo Shock has delivered a decent looking and sounding release and this disc comes recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.