Shô Kosugi in Revenge of the Ninja (1983)


Could you imagine finding your entire family dead? Your little boy with a throwing star right in his head, your wife with a sword buried in her torso, all that is left is your little baby. That is the incredible opening, with its massacre by ninjas followed by Kosugi and Roberts (well, mostly Kosugi) obliterating them on his home compound in Tokyo, Japan. Of course, Roberts is revealed to be the mastermind behind this horrible slaughter and only wanted Kosugi to come to America to open an art studio to make money. Profit and capitalism led Roberts to orchestrate the murder of Kosugi’s family. It swore him off of the way of the ninja, to say to no to violence with the sword. He opens a gallery, producing authentically designed dolls crafted from members of his society (geisha, ninja, samurai, etc.), but doesn’t realize that Roberts is hiding heroine in the dolls. Roberts is selling the heroine to a shifty kingpin played by Mario Gallo. Gallo has the men with their guns and throws his position in town in Roberts’ face. Roberts will eventually engage in violence with Gallo’s company of enforcers and they won’t stand a chance.

Obviously Roberts doesn’t know martial arts so when he goes into American Ninja combat mode, they put him in black suit with a glimmering “evil smile” mask so that the fighting extra can take care of the “heavy lifting”. Kosugi eventually learns of Roberts’ evil ways, how he has just been a patsy the entire time and that his little boy (his real life son who benefits from such association by getting to kick the ass of some kid bullies and even has a fighting sequence with Ashley Ferrare!) has been kidnapped and doomed because the kid “knows too much”. Ferrare is Roberts’ dame, becoming attracted to Kosugi; when she betrays Roberts by informing on his nefarious actions to Kosugi he assigns his henchman to “hot tub torture” her!

Too bad there's no fight scene between Kosugi and the great beefy heavy, Professor Toru Tanaka. Tanaka is too busy trying to rape Gerrard, finding the unfortunate end of a garrote.

Oh, God, do I absolutely love this ludicrous, absurd martial arts opus, given Shô Kosugi the star treatment he so richly deserves. Roberts doesn’t even have to do much since Kosugi’s obvious trained fighting partner gets to step in for him and look like this cold-blooded, sneaky, silent assassin. If he hadn’t lost enough family already, Roberts eventually kills his mom, too!

The stunt sequence involving Kosugi having to battle Gallo’s goons while stealing his dolls (as an effort to undermine Roberts) is hilarious. Don Shanks (I know him best from the slasher flick, Sweet 16 (1983), but many might claim his role as Michael Myers in Halloween V (1989) is his main claim to fame) is actually a Navajo henchman named Chief told by Gallo to “scalp” whoever might get in his way! He actually has two battle axes he’ll attempt to slice Kosugi with! I guess because this was decided just because those involved in the creative process thought it’d be cool to see a Navajo in a fight with a highly trained marital artist? Whatever the case, I could only look on with mouth agape. Of course, it is obvious who will come out of this victor. Anyway, Kosugi is so fast and agile he can leap over high fences, still vehicles, and moving vehicles, land on moving vehicles at fast speeds, endure hot asphalt while holding on to a moving van (with only his pants suffering with limited marks to his person!), escape speeding bullets from guns pointed right at him, and bounce back quickly despite a quantity of abuse to his body. Not five or so minutes later Kosugi and cop American pal, Keith Vitali, are engaged in combat with some thugs on a playground! Let’s be honest, this film is interested primarily in Kosugi and Roberts’ double in ninja uniform fighting and killing a bunch of folks.

Grace Oshita even has a stunt double do some flips to specify her abilities at martial arts but she does the smoke-vanishing-act, getting impaled by Roberts’ sword while hiding on the other side of a wall. Let’s face it, few associated with Kosugi will make it out of the film alive, much less grandma. But at least little Kane Kosugi is spared…no steam room is going to keep that kid in check! Kane even gets to show off his nunchux skills. But seeing the kid doing battle with Ferrare is a bit much…it made me laugh out loud instead of jive to its music. Then there’s the main fight at the top of the city buildings between master ninjas to close out the show. With all of the “ninja decoys”, ninja weapon toys, and flipping/flying, the dueling ninja fight choreography gives you your money’s worth. No stone is left unturned in this movie.

Of course with all the fucking American Ninja movies, any genre can be done to death and leave is up to Golan/Globus to do just that. Oh, the wonderful 80s and all their genre movies. Funniest “death trap” has to go to the “hot tub of doom”, though. I don’t know what they were thinking and when Ferrare is rescued by Kane, I just remained quite astonished.