Saturday, September 12, 2009

Film Review: REVENGE OF THE NINJA (1983, Sam Firstenberg)

Stars: 5 of 5.
Running Time: 90 minutes.
Tag-line: "400 years of training in the art of sudden death... unleashed on 20th century America."
Best one-liner: "Only a ninja can stop a ninja."

My mind's been blown, my sternum's been broken in nine different places, and a bunch of spikes have been spat in my face- we are talkin' cream of the crop Cannon here. This is DEATH WISH 3 good. REVENGE OF THE NINJA promises, then delivers, incompetent ninja action. Is there any other kind of ninja action that you need? This movie is all about takin' a leak in some dingy bathroom, an eyeliner-wearin' ninja sneaks up behind you, you spin around and say "What the fuck is this, Halloween?," and then you get stabbed with like 8 different ninja implements. Before I proceed with "MYTH VS. FACT- REVENGE OF THE NINJA EDITION," allow me to share a few things I learned from this movie.

#1. A ninja can be very dangerous, even in doll form. Note the finger wound:


#3. This is the proper way to travel between buildings.


#5. All of these guys hang out together at the playground on a Saturday afternoon.

Is that Robert Duvall from APOCALYPSE NOW?

#6. This is how a ninja bleeds.

#7. If you're going to work out, you're going to need pants.

#8. Forgetting your pants to your workout is a fantastic way to let Sho Kosugi know that you're interested, romantically.

#9. "What the shit is this?" is the proper response to seeing a homeless man killed with a throwing star.

#10. Generic police forces who don't answer to any particular jurisdiction are the ones who investigate ninja related crimes.

Alright, now that we've all learned a few things, allow me to tackle a few common misconceptions:

MYTH: You can defeat a ninja with something besides another ninja.


MYTH: Golan and Globus found a way to make a hot tub integral to the plot of this movie.
FACT: Golan and Globus found a way to make three SEPARATE hot tubs integral to the plot of this movie.

MYTH: Real ninja don't carry around fiberglass dummies of themselves.
FACT: It's an essential tool in the ninja arsenal, and it totally buys you like, 10 seconds.

MYTH: The ninja were all evil.


MYTH: Gangs are generally divided amongst racial lines.

FACT: The henchmen and gangs here are extremely integrated. So the movie wouldn't be racist. We get, for example, a Native American named "Chief" who threatens to scalp people. I'm surprised the gang didn't have a wheelchair-using Pacific Islander.

MYTH: Depicting violence against children as cathartic is 'taboo.'

FACT: The kid is hot tonite! Kane Kosugi (Sho's son, 9) gets some vicious action sequences. Watch him kick the shit out of a gang of bullies. So satisfying. Watch him get slapped in the face, thrown, smacked with a pole, tied up, and punched. Watch another kid take a throwing star in the FACE. This movie is brutal.

MYTH: You can never have too much Professor Toru Tanaka.

FACT: A semi-nude Tanaka rape scene is too much Tanaka.

MYTH: The greatest thing to ever take place in a Cannon film involves breakdancing and/or Charles Bronson.

FACT: Add "Sho Kosugi slicing a dude's 'stache in half with a razor fan" to the short list.

Five (ninja) stars, and top-tier Golan-Globus. Nice work, gentlemen.

-Sean Gill


Anonymous said...

fucking awesome

NINJA said...

Mustache cut= amazing

Anonymous said...

You are completely right- that is too much Tanaka

Mike B. said...

Before I again post an overlong comment here in the archives, let me first say that I thoroughly enjoyed the latest entry in the Top 100 segment. But while I'm not qualified to comment on those films, I am all over this one, which I happen to have just re-watched for about the billionth time. It's a love affair that goes back to when I, as a young lad, somehow convinced my folks to let me rent this fine film from the corner video store; remember those puffy plastic VHS cases? Anywho, your choice of screenshots is spot-on, and the scene where Keith Vitali introduces Sho Kosugi to the ex-cons in the park still blows the mind every time. You couldn't be more right about this being the most Golan-Globus-y of all Golan-Globus films. The 20-minute climactic rooftop battle makes it forever the greatest 80's ninja film, to me. I also must ask, have you ever seen Kosugi's "Rage of Honor" from 1987? It's begging for a review due to its sheer lunacy. It's like a ninja movie that won't acknowledge that it's a ninja movie. The word "ninja" is never said. Policeman Kosugi busts out throwing stars during speed boat chases and it's chalked up to him "being Japanese." The South American drug cartel employs ninjas for no reason. There's a horrifyingly un-PC scene where Kosugi finds himself on an island and literally slaughters like a whole indigenous tribe (seriously, it's genuinely off-putting, and he's the hero!). It's not Cannon quality, for these obvious reasons, but it's complete madness makes it worthy of a viewing. I hope it one day shows up on this site, if for no other reason than I could use some help making sense of it!

Sean Gill said...

Heh, well I suppose I never responded to everyone, so here goes:

Anon #1,


Anon. #2,
Yep– now I have to watch PEE WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE again and wash my eyes out with soap.

Hell yes– this is one of those great films I can watch anytime, anywhere, like AMERICAN GRAFFITI and DAZED AND CONFUSED and MUNCHIE and DEATH WISH 3. And I still have a couple of those Puffy plastic VHS cases! It's funny, I think the advent of DVD and the sheer amount of films that haven't made the jump yet have actually caused me to purchase more VHS's post-DVD than pre.
I'm ashamed to say that I have not seen RAGE OF HONOR, though in an insane coincidence, I recently bought this triple feature DVD with AMERICAN NINJA, REVENGE OF THE NINJA, and RAGE OF HONOR on it. I'm really lookin' forward to it. And (shame, shame) I have never seen AMERICAN NINJA either, so I guess I'm about to embark on a goddamn ninja marathon.

Mike B. said...

I too have somehow yet to experience "American Ninja," but you're certainly in for a treat when you make it to "Rage of Honor." Prepare to be simultaneously amazed, horrified, and confused! And thanks again for humoring my outdated posts!

Anonymous said...
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Dr. Dax said...

Aaah, Cannon's crowning achievement, and the best of the Ninja trilogy. Too bad we never saw more movies with Ashley Ferrare, too. She was one of my 80's crushes for sure.

Sean Gill said...


Indeed REVENGE OF THE NINJA is a beautiful thing. As for Ashley Ferrare, I love that 66% of her filmography is ninja-based, and the other 33% is about rocket-launching motorcycles. I really respect that.