When you get right down to it, the culture from the land of the rising sun and American culture have quite a bit in common. But, as similar as the cultures are, there are a lot of ways in which we're different. Japanese cinema has a decidedly different flavor to it. Their action movies tend to be less about Michael Bay-style CGI fests, and more about human drama and tension. For those of you looking for some good action movies, check out these seven Japanese action movies. You're guaranteed to love them!


"Sword of Doom"

Cold and unfeeling samurai Ryonosuke Tsukue is a man who likes to kill. Well, maybe "likes" is too strong for this guy, but he certainly knows how to do it well. After he falls in with a group of murderous Ronin, things really start to unravel. After a fall into total madness, one of the finest sword fights in the history of cinema ensues. Ryonosuke does battle with a cadre of his former associates, showing off his elite skills as he is slowly worn down by the ghosts of his past.


"Ichi The Killer"

This movie is famous for a number of things, not the least of which is setting a record for most walk-outs and instances of people vomiting during an independent film festival. Takeshi Miike also directed "Audition," so if you know anything about that movie (acupuncture to the eyeball!), you know why "Ichi The Killer" is so twisted. The story follows a sado-masochistic man who is corrupted by a crime organization into doing their bidding. The highlight of the film? How about burning tempura oil being poured onto someone!


Akira Kurosawa is widely regarded as one of the best Japanese filmmakers. His 1961 period picture "Yojimbo" shows why. When a man with no real name shows up to a town that is being brutalized by two competing crime lords, he realizes that this town needs protection. Through clever manipulation, the man is able to convince the crime lords to go to war with each other, killing their charges while the ronin finishes the rest. It's an early example of "the man with no name" character and has been inspiration for countless directors over the years.

"Beautiful Female Panther: Body Sniper"

Sleek Japanese women and guns: is there anything better? A fashion model takes on a secret identity to avenge the deaths of her parents, Batman-style. In between her quest to kill the leader of the crime syndicate that killed her parents, she must deal with her troublesome brother and a mysterious masked man who attacks her with a sword. The fight scenes are beautiful as is the female lead, so do yourself a favor and check this one out!

"Tetsuo II: Body Hammer"

For those of you who like a little sci-fi with their action, Japan has the "Tetsuo" movies. We've gone with the second installment here, in which Taniguchi, the protagonist comes into possession of a gun-arm. He uses it to murder skinheads, and...well, murdering skinheads seems to be the order of the day, really. The movie is very Cronenberg-esque, with lots of body transformation and weird biomechanical stuff going on.



This film, although it has plenty of action, is more of a character study. Murakawa, the main character, is tired of the gangster life. But, as with all organized crime organizations, it's "blood in, blood out." He's sent on a job that is supposed to see him killed, but he manages to escape the bombing and attempt on his life. Murakawa's depression deepens, leading him to attempt suicide, but he does find time to rescue a woman in peril. Ultimately, though, Murakawa must face his past life.


"Kura Obi"

This movie is possibly the finest example of karate ever on film. In contrast to most portrayals of martial arts, this movie doesn't have any wire-fighting or back-flipping. The movie's pace is slow, sometimes agonizingly so, but when the fights happen, they are impressive. They're taut affairs that really demonstrate the discipline and tenacity of high-level martial arts, so any fight fans out there would do well to check this movie out.