a Primal Root written review
“Only a ninja can stop a ninja.” – Sho Kosugi, Revenge of the Ninja
Holy shit, who doesn’t love a no holds barred, ball the the wall, bone crunching, spirit smashing, head splitting ninja flick? There are a handful of truly damn fine ninja flicks that immediately spring to mind. Flicks like Ninja in the Dragon’s Den (1982), Ninja bugeicho momochi sandayu aka: Shugun’s Ninja (1980). But the majority of ninja movies were kind of rinky dink, low budget Trash Cinema weirdness, many released by the kingpins of bargain basement oddities, Cannon Films in the 1980’s. Offerings like American Ninja (1986), Enter the Ninja (1981), Ninja III: The Domination (1984), etc. Thankfully for these sort of flicks, the goofier it gets, the more entertaining it often becomes. Case in point, 1983’s Revenge of the Ninja.
Revenge of the Ninja, Hell, the plot is right the in the title! So you know exactly what you’re in for the moment you sit down to watch this sucker. After a long standing feud ends with his entire family (men, women, children, grandma, grandpa, dogs, cats, etc.) brutally butchered before the opening credits by a swarm of merciless ninja assassins, Cho Osaki (Sho Kosugi) takes his surviving infant son and his wise old Mama to the United States of America to start a gallery for little geisha dolls and begin life a new in the land of opportunity.
Only thing is, to the total ignorance of Cho, his white bread yuppie all American Capitalist best buddy is using the doll gallery as a front for his heroin smuggling operation which is in cahoots with an incredibly dangerous Yakuza syndicate in Japan and a local mob cartel. Once this betrayal is revealed to Cho, he realizes that no matter how far her runs, or where he hides, the shadow of his ninja past will always fall upon him and those he loves.
Just like the old guard of ninja films in the 1970’s, Sonny Chiba, Sho Kosugi carried the torch and carved ninja terminology onto 1980’s martial arts lexicon and maintained his dignity throughout a career that spanned movies such as The Godfather part II (1974) (where he played Passerby in Coat with Cap Pulled Down) to The Bad News Bears Go to Japan (1978) to Blind Fury (1989) and Ninja Assassin (2009). Kosugi gives the character of Cho Osaki a strong presence all at once badass and impenetrable and also incredibly empathetic. You can’t help but root for the guy.
Revenge of the Ninja is far and away the cream of the crop when it comes to American brand Shinobi flicks of the 1980’s. The movie is is heavy on the unrelenting action sequences and the whole thing rolls out like a Double Dragon video game. Seriously, if you have a stop watch you can try it at home, there’s an action just about ever 5-7 minutes during the films run time. You paid for ninja carnage? Revenge of the Ninja understand and delivers a buffet of all you can eat martial arts awesomeness. Revenge of the Ninja faithfully adheres to the chopsocky action formula where every single new setting is pretty much guarantees that there’s some goons hiding right around the corner ready to get a brawl started.
One of the stand out battles takes place in a crowded public park replete with an extensive jungle gym. Cho has gotten word that there’s a gang that hangs out there who might have information regarding his kidnapped son and who vandalized his doll gallery. Sure enough, Cho shows up in broad daylight and confronts this gang of thugs, who look just like the alternate dimension evil version of The Village People and the extended fight is on! Cho kicks everyone’s ass, and no information is gained, the plot is not furthered, the movie just had to kick some ass for a while and MAN is it spectacular.
There’s also a pretty outstanding chase sequence where Sho is on foot chasing down a van filled with thugs. The guy leaps over walls in a single bound, runs atop cars, barreling none stop in pursuit of the speeding van, determined to get his stolen heroine dolls back. Cho ends up JUMPING THROUGH the windshield of the van where he beings battling the occupants. That is, until Cho is thrown from the van, grabs onto the bumper and is dragged behind on his knees for several city blocks transforming his slacks into daisy dukes and leaving the poor mans legs a ravaged, bloody mess. The stunts and fight choreography are still awe inspiring even by today’s standards. Shit, if this were to be made today all these stunts and shit would require computer assistance. Revenge of the Ninja serves up the real deal.
Also, there’s a jaw dropping final battle atop a city high rise that’s quite elaborate, if not a little chuckle worthy due to the Wile E Coyote nature of the battle. It;s on the rooftop and over the top and includes a leaping battle on a tennis court and an odd bit of battling in a hot tub… Trust me, it’s remarkable. Every ninja tick in the book is here and accounted for.
The entire film is caked in blood with plentiful amounts of nasty, gory deaths. Bones are broken, faces mangled and blood splashes across the screen, all in good fun. But, for me. the highlight of the whole film is when Cho spares with a young and eager blonde woman looking to get pummeled below the belt by her Sensei, if you know what I mean, and I think you do. She shows up to spare wearing NO PANTS OR PANTIES! Even Cho makes note of this when he remarks, “Well, if you wanna work out, you forgot your pants! ” to which his student, Cathy, retorts, “You really think I forgot?” and they end up sparing for a little bit as she’s flashing her snatch the entire time! Gang, this is cinematic gold of the trashiest proportions. I mean, how many bottomless training scenes have you witnessed? It’s really wonderful stuff.
What’s also worth mentioning is that one of Kosugi’s son’s, Kane Kosugi, made his film debut here as Cho’s little boy and ninja attack survivor turned martial arts wizard and eventual hostage, Kane Osaki. Kane has a pretty hysterical battle with a group of school bullies on his way home with his grandmother. He ends up whooping every single one of them before his Father catches on and he gets scolded for being awesome. Kane is still enjoying a pretty damn healthy career these days with titles such as Godzilla: Final Wars (2004), Ninja: Shadow of a Tear (2013) and Muscle Heat (2002) under his belt.
Revenge of the Ninja is actually the second installment of the Ninja franchise Cannon Films produced. It began with Enter the Ninja (1981) starring a poorly dubbed over Franco Nero of Django fame as the ninja who enters and the trilogy ended with the laughably bizarre Ninja III: The Domination (1984) where an aerobics instructor ends up being possessed by an evil ninja from beyond the grave. We’ll talk about those flicks some other time. 😉 As far as I’m concerned, Revenge of the Ninja is the Empire Strikes Back of the series.
Revenge of the Ninja is a finely tuned, gore drenched thrill a minute action film and a damn fine example of the genre.Well directed by Cannon Films veteran Sam Firstenberg, scored strikingly, catchy score courtesy of Rob Walsh and a damn near perfect screenplay James R Silke, Revenge of the Ninja is among the very best examples of pure, unadulterated Trash Cinema martial arts action. And you won’t even need your pants and panties to enjoy it.
You GOTTA see Revenge of the Ninja.
I’m awarding this sucker FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.