Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Revenge Of The Ninja

REVENGE OF THE NINJA was a big step up for Cannon, as it was among the studio’s first films to receive a theatrical release from MGM. Cannon wanted a sequel to its smash hit ENTER THE NINJA, though REVENGE has nothing to do with it except actor Sho Kosugi is in both movies as different characters. Location filming in Salt Lake City gives REVENGE an offbeat look to match its offbeat script.

Kosugi, who played an evil ninja in ENTER, gets top billing this time as good ninja Cho Osaki, who leaves his native Tokyo for Los Angeles with his mother and his baby son Kane after the rest of his family is murdered in a ninja bloodbath. Six years later, Osaki has a successful business running a gallery of handcrafted dolls imported from the Orient. What he doesn’t know is that his business partner Braden (Arthur Roberts) is smuggling heroin inside the dolls and selling it to Italian mobster Caifano (an overacting Mario Gallo).

Braden’s plan goes awry after Kane (Kosugi’s real-life son Kane) accidentally breaks a doll, exposing the powder inside, and witnesses a murder. As if it weren’t already crazy enough, the screenplay by James Silke (AMERICAN NINJA) really goes off the rails when we learn Braden is also a ninja (!) and that he has the power to hypnotize sexy karate student Cathy (Ashley Ferrare) and get her to kidnap Kane.

REVENGE was the first action movie directed by Israeli-born Sam Firstenberg, and he immediately demonstrates a knack for staging exciting, bloody fight scenes. The massacre that opens the film gets the picture off to a rousing start, and the action-packed climax featuring Kosugi laying waste to an entire office building of henchmen is one of the best sequences in any Cannon movie. Kosugi and stunt coordinator Steve Lambert put together a succession of fun chases and fight scenes, which are glued together with a score credited to Michael W. Lewis and Robert J. Walsh that’s so infectious that Cannon used it in other movies.

Even little Kane Kosugi gets to knock some guys on their asses, though the sight of a little boy getting slapped around may surprise contemporary audiences. Firstenberg’s touch with actors is not as strong as his action chops — all the actors are either over- or under-emoting — but nobody’s watching a film called REVENGE OF THE NINJA to see Lee Strasberg exercises. Firstenberg, Silke, Kosugi, and editor Michael Duthie returned a year later in another unrelated “sequel,” NINJA III: THE DOMINATION, which added a supernatural spin to the chopsocky thrills.

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