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For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, May 27, 2016

Editor’s note: Despite the authority and appeal he brought to such major movies as ‘The Right Stuff’ and ‘Silverado,’ Scott Glenn hasn’t been the leading man in very many films over his long career, but he’s a solid character actor and usually impresses in whatever films he plays second- or third-banana. This is one of those rare films in which he was top billed, an action picture that has languished in the archives until Kino Lorber decided to give it a Blu-ray/DVD release earlier this year. Here’s my Deseret News review from Sept. 1, 1982.

“The Challenge” looks like just another modern-day Samurai picture, but it’s given a boost by fine performances and some very funny bits of business.

The screenplay has a fairly routine storyline, with two Japanese brothers battling violently over a pair of ancient swords that have been handed down for centuries.

But that routine screenplay was the subject of a rewrite by John Sayles (who gets second credit for it, after Richard Maxwell, whose first screenplay this is).


         Toshiro Mifune, lobby card for 'The Challenge'

Sayles is the prolific young writer-director, whose wry sense of humor has permeated such films as “Battle Beyond the Stars,” “The Howling,” “Alligator” and his first directing effort, “Return of the Secaucus Seven.” And he gives this otherwise mundane thriller a needed boost. There’s some great hip dialogue here, along with some funny comic scenes.

But director John Frankenheimer, best known for his early films, “The Manchurian Candidate,” “Seven Days in May,” “The Birdman of Alcatraz,” etc., has chosen to make “The Challenge” a major gorefest, and blood and guts are the order of the day.


Scott Glenn is about to be buried up to his neck in 'The Challenge.'

Rated R for that reason, along with an explicit sex scene and a lot of profanity, “The Challenge” doesn’t quite make the recommendation list, but if you can stand the violence, there are a lot of good moments in between.

And the apparent moral here is that it’s worth dying to bring two matched swords together.