3 Seconds Before Explosion/Review
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
Following the end World War II, a cache of rare jewels from the Rabaley government are stolen by two men named Tachihara and Takashima who run The Sanei Corporation. In 1967, a group of jewel thieves headed by the diabolical Uezuki decide to try to steal them to sell. The secret Japanese Espionage Bureau brings in their top agent, a superspy named Yabuki (Akira Kobayashi) to retrieve the jewels and uncover the crime syndicate. Yabuki then breaks into a highly guarded compound to interrogate a man who may know where they are. He is soon discovered on the grounds and a violent chase ensues. A pack of security dogs are sent after him and the guards all come out like an angry swarm of hornets. Luckily with his quick spy skills, Yabuki manages to evade capture and/or death by using a special telephone line pully rig that he slides across. After jumping from the cable down to the ground he outruns the men who shoot at him from a car and he barely escapes again.
Yabuki meets with his superior officer and gets more information on the history of the jewels. He is told that the stones are owned by the Rabaley government but in a matter of hours they will pass the ownership time limit and be up for the taking by anyone who gets hold of them first. Yabuki lets his superior know that an ex-agent named Yamawaki (Hideki Takahashi) is also involved. He is the one actually guarding the jewels at the Sanei Corporation which is run by Takashima. The bureau chief lets Yabuki know that he wants the smugglers killed off because it is imperative they don't get the jewels under any circumstances. Yabuki begins trailing Yamawaki through the city and spying on the factory where the jewels are supposedly hidden. Meanwhile, Uezuki's men kidnap Takashima's niece Yukiko to use her as a hostage. Takashima pleads with Yamawaki to just hand over the jewels to the smugglers so they wont kill her, but Yamawaki relents.
Yabuki decides to go and meet Uezuki in person in his basement headquarters below the Casba nightclub. Yabuki tells Uezuki he has a job as a reporter for a trade paper, but that he's really a blackmailer who wants to help him steal the jewels. In return he wants a piece of the action. When Yukiko is brought in to the room, Yabuki is forced to kill her to prove he's really not a rat. Theres a moment of high tension here. Shockingly, Yabuki ends up pulling the trigger, luckily to find there are no bullets in the gun. When Yabuki clues Uezuki in that he knows the jewels are being hidden somewhere inside the Sanei Corporation, Uzueki's thugs then decide to use Yukiko to get Takashima's attention. They order her to run through a field towards the Sanei Corporation then they shoot her in the back. Takashima witnesses this and is horrified. Uzueki brings in a whole army of thugs to ransack the place, but they dont find anything. When one of the thugs knocks down a bunch of barrels, Yabuki notices a strange sound emanating from them. The men don't kill Yabuki because he is so suave and cool. He does a great job putting on the front.
Uzuki forces Yabuki to stay inside a locked hotel room, because they still aren't sure if he's a rat. But Yabuki knows time is running out and since hearing the noise from the barrels, he decides to escape from Uezuki's men. He goes back to the factory and places a timed explosive in a barrel with the jewels. Once it's revealed that Germans have been behind the entire scheme to get the jewels and have hired Uezuki and his men, it brings the film into a different place. Sadly, Yamawaki's girl Nana, a nightclub singer, is tragically killed while helping infiltrate the German smuggler. This is where we get the more emotional scenes between Yabuki and Yamawaki, who, as we learned earlier, worked together once. The film reaches its tension filled ending with Uzeuki's army tracking down the cache of jewels to an underwater cave system. To make matters worse, Yabuki is tied up and thrown into a jail cell. Little do the gang know that Yabuki's ticking timebomb is going to go off...
3 Seconds Before Explosion is a fast paced, slick Japanese spy film that has got a lot of nicely shot, exciting action scenes. The constant forward momentum is really what makes the film work since the plotline itself is pretty loopy and sort of a cliche in the spy genre. What I liked about the Yabuki character in particular was his style as a secret agent. When he appears in his black cat burglar outfit, you know he's ready for action. What's strange is, this guy has absolutely NO fighting skills at all. He either karate chops someone, pushes them or kicks them ONCE and thats enough. This certainly isn't Sonny Chiba type action. While his combat techniques aren't very flashy at all Yabuki likes to slide across/down wires during his getaways. There's also some very cool city rooftop climbing/jumping, when Yabuki is being chased by Uezuki's thugs. NOTE: For some reason this film features cruelty towards dogs. Yabuki kills a dog (by breaking its neck) and during the finale, the men have a dog run through a mined area to show where the explosives are. I thought that was weird, but sort of comical too. Of course they didn't really hurt the animals.
For Japanese genre film fans who love blood and gore of The Streetfighter and Pinky Violence cinema, there are only a couple scenes that contain some graphic aspects. One involves Uzuki's men trying to break into a safe and after it explodes, pieces of bloody flesh splatter on the wall. Theres also an interrogation scene with Uzuki beating up a man who knows where the jewels are being held.
Peter Roberts is the co-founder/editor-in-chief of the Grindhouse Cinema Database (GCDb) and contributor to the GCDb's sister site Furious Cinema. He is an avid film fan that has been immersed in the world of entertainment and pop culture his entire life.