Rick Murphy, an amateur American boxer (Scott Glenn) becomes involved in a feud between two Japanese brothers, Yoshida (Toshiro Mifune) and his younger brother Hideo, which concerns the possession of a pair of swords known as The Equals passed down through their family generations. One sword is meant to be kept by each sibling. The feud starts after Yoshida’s sword is stolen during World War II. Out of greed and obsession, Hideo claims to have the right to own both.
When the stolen sword is tracked down in present-day California, Murphy is contracted by Yoshida’s children Toshio and Akiko, to smuggle it back to Japan. Upon arrival at the airport, Murphy and Toshio are kidnapped by Hideo’s men to be taken to their boss. On their way, Toshio is brutally killed but Murphy later manages to escape with the help of Akiko. Murphy who is wounded is taken by Akiko to her father’s sword-fighting school, where he eventually learns the truth about the feud.
After being trained the skills of sword-fighting by Yoshida, Murphy decides to join him in his venture to Hideo’s industrial complex to rescue Akiko, who has been taken hostage in return for the sword, and settle the feud in a blood fight. These two brothers will stop at nothing to keep possession of the swords – one out of greed and the other for honor!
This is John Frankenheimer’s lesser work. For viewers unfamiliar with Japanese culture, the plot may feel absurd: shedding blood for a family heirloom! However, if you like action films about East-meets-West sort of thing, this is worth a look.