Stars: 5 of 5.
Running Time: 101 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Franco Nero (CAMELOT, TRISTANA, DIE HARD 2, KEOMA), Susan George (STRAW DOGS, DIRTY MARY CRAZY LARRY, MANDINGO), Sho Kosugi (NINE DEATHS OF THE NINJA, BLIND FURY, THE BAD NEWS BEARS GO TO JAPAN), Christopher George (THE SHOOTIST, EL DORADO, DAY OF THE ANIMALS), Alex Courtney (AND THE BAND PLAYED ON, LOOKING FOR MR. GOODBAR), cinematography by David Gurfinkel (OVER THE TOP, THE APPLE, SALSA), and a cameo by Michael Dudikoff!
Tag-lines: "Warriors of a lost martial art! Hired assassins ...human killing machines!"
Best one-liner: " I want a ninja. Find me a ninja. I want Lander's land!"
The words 'Cannon Films,' 'Golan,' 'Globus,' and 'Ninja' indicate one thing, and one thing only: supreme awesomeness. They usually involve land-developer villains, bad dubbing, lots of slow motion whooshing sound effects, spit-take inducing dialogue, and the moral of the story is usually that 'you can't fight a ninja without another ninja.' All of this is gold, and Menahem Golan (THE APPLE, OVER THE TOP) is a veritable 80's King Midas. The film begins with ten minutes of sheer ninja action (and no dialogue- but this ain't ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST).
When the big unveiling comes, and we finally see the face of the newly anointed ninja...it's a sweaty white guy with a bad hangover?!
Wait...is that Franco NERO?! And indeed it is. Nero is legendary: he's worked with Fassbinder, Bunuel, Castellari, and John Huston; he's played Jesus, Valentino, Versace, Django, and Lancelot! At first I thought he was phoning it in, but if he hasn't won you over by the half-way mark, you really shouldn't be watching these kinds of movies anyway.
"This is the Ninja symbol for mastery of time and space."
It really is!
Ohhh, it was just a fake head!
There's Nero versus 500 guys with tight jeans; dudes are impaled with benches; Sho Kosugi looks real pissy;
Christopher George chews scenery like its his job (and it is);
and there's a baddie named The Hook ("When he had both hands, he was a real sonofabitch. Now hes a lot worse.").
Nero to Hook: 'Hang around, I'll be back.'
Cockfighting is presented as good, clean fun ("Sir, would you like me to set up a cockfight for your guest?") and the soundtrack is very FRIDAY THE 13TH with crazed strings, some 'nee nee jaa jaa' whispers (like THE OCTAGON!), and a 'wah-wah-wah wuhhh' trumpet thrown in for flavor.
I think they used up their smacked in the nuts quota for like 12 movies here- there's hooks, fists, feet, knees, billyclubs, etc. all making serious contact with balls in extreme closeup. And, I gotta say, the ole 'ninja hiding the tree above you' trick NEVER gets old.
The vague misogyny of Cannon Films never gets old, either!
All of this ends with the best freeze frame since HOOPER.
I could go on, but I think you should really just see it for yourself.
Oh, and of course, there's this:
Five (ninja) stars.