Never Give Up Review

Opening with a pre-credits display of excessive machismo – assault courses, hand-to-hand combat, helicopters and machine guns - Never Give Up lets us know that it’s firmly in the tradition of excessive action movies. Its lead Ken Takakura may leave behind his special forces job in the opening stages (and the hand gliding that goes with it) to become an insurance salesman and to adopt a traumatised teenage girl, but we’re never left in any doubt as to whether he’ll need to call upon these skills once again. As with all action heroes, retirement never really exists.

Yet Never Give Up is of a rather excessive length for an action movie and its plotting comparatively complex. Though it will of course end in spectacular carnage, the film nonetheless occupies itself with sundry details before it can get there. We have the slaughter of an entire village (save for our teen adoptee) which is almost avant-garde in its over-the-top bloodletting. There’s amnesia, clairvoyance and “eerie pictures”. A female journalist, “accidental” deaths and police corruption. A motorcycle gang and mobsters ruling an entire small town, who of course Takakura soon finds himself up against. And at the halfway mark there’s even the threat of the whole thing turning into a courtroom drama, though it perhaps goes without saying that this was never really going to happen.

For Never Give Up is still an action flick despite the intrigue and a fairly formulaic one at that. The scripting is none too subtle and with the exception of Takakura (who at least harbours some secrets and questions himself from time to time) populated entirely by stock types. Indeed, there’s a workmanlike quality to the whole affair and it’s reflected in the direction too. Junya Sato, best known perhaps for The Bullet Train, simply gets down to business in as unfussy a manner as possible. There’s no tricksiness, no overall sense of style, rather he’s serious when need be, tough when need be and sentimental when need be – all of which is perfectly proficient in its own unassuming way. The great thing about this is that no one element is able to take hold and override everything else; we don’t get bogged down by the sentimentality, say, simply because the length allows it to get lost amongst the sheer variety of what’s going on. Yet had the film been much shorter – by about 45 minutes – then we’d find something a little different. Replace the Japanese dialogue for English, install Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus as producers and you’d have nothing more than your average eighties action thriller. Only instead of Takakura in the lead role you’d find either Chuck Norris or Charles Bronson.

The Disc

Another Ventura handling of an East Asian action movie, another NTSC to PAL transfer. And once again it’s a great shame as the print appears to be spectacular condition. Converted correctly we’d have a superb picture demonstrating excellent clarity and detail and rich colours despite the film’s age. Yet instead we find edge enhancement, a loss in sharpness, and intermittent artefacting – not the best of situations. Also the soundtrack isn’t quite what it should be. According the IMDb, Never Give Up should be in standard stereo, but here comes with a Dolby Surround Mix which makes ample use of the additional speakers throughout. Certainly, it’s technically sound and as clean as the print, yet it’s disappointing that we’re not offered the original at least alongside. As for extras these follow the standard Ventura pattern and amount solely to handful of cross-promotional trailers for various Sonny Chiba titles and more recent horrors.

6 out of 10
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out of 10

Last updated: 19/04/2018 06:37:32

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