This was one of the more considerate reader requests I’ve gotten, as this reader actually provided me with a copy of the movie. Granted, it appears to be a VHS ripped to DVD, but I still appreciated it greatly.
This movie was the completely unrelated “sequel” to the 1981 film Enter the Ninja and, along with Ninja III: The Domination, is part of the “Ninja Trilogy” featuring the legendary ninja actor Sho Kosugi (who plays a different role in all three films). However, unlike the last film, which took place in the Philippines, this film takes place in the good ol’ U.S. of A. Interestingly, the Salt Lake City council begged them to shoot the movie there instead of L.A. by promising them the ability to shoot in any public place without a permit or location fee. I can only assume they were hoping that it would spawn a “Mormons vs. Ninjas” film series that the world has (probably) not yet gotten.
The film begins at the totally-in-Japan estate of the Osaki family. You can tell that it’s Japan because there are bamboo and palm trees and the ponds have artificially inserted sparkle effects which you never find in Salt Lake City. A large group of ninjas wearing the least-concealing colors in history start to stalk the family, consisting of Cho Osaki’s wife, Yoshi, and baby, Kane, his mother-in-law and father-in-law, his eldest son, and some other woman who will never be identified or referenced again. They’re quickly spotted, because they’re wearing Black and Red in the middle of a bamboo forest, but it turns out that what the ninjas lack in disguise, they make up for in overkill. For example, they stab the caretaker figure with a total of 6 different weapons. To be fair, by slowly wielding a hoe, he is clearly the biggest threat in the group. Osaki’s wife briefly escapes to hide her baby, before being killed. The ninjas then hear people coming and perform the long-celebrated “Ninja Vanish.” In this case, that means running a short distance.
Cho (Kosugi) returns home talking with his American friend, Braden (Arthur Roberts), only to realize that the grounds are a little corpse-y. He goes to check on the deceased until a few of the ninjas return to attack him. Cho quickly defeats them with a sword. Braden shoots two more. A group of ninja archers try to kill Cho, but he catches all three of the arrows (including one with his MOUTH!) and then stabs the archers to death with them. He and Braden then dispatch the rest of the ninjas in a manner that Jason Vorhees would describe as “maybe a little too brutal.”
Cho’s mother returns home and handles finding her family dead among a plethora of ninja corpses… pretty well, honestly. She finds baby Kane and gives him to Cho. Braden asks Cho to move to America, but Cho’s mother says they can’t leave the land of their ancestors. Also, she says she doesn’t like Braden, which the movie punctuates with a close-up of Braden’s eyes and a music cue I can only describe as “Foreshadowboding.” The Osakis then move to America, to a Los Angeles that looks suspiciously like Salt Lake City.
Years pass, Kane (Kane Kosugi) is now in elementary school. While he is walking with his grandmother, he is confronted by a gang of children about age 10. It’s important to remember this was the 1980s, so the gang has every race represented. The gang attempts to attack Kane, who beats them easily before his father shows up and chastises him for fighting. It’s revealed that Cho has sworn of Ninjitsu forever, which will definitely not shortly be reversed in the movie.
Cho has also developed a relationship with Cathy (Ashley Ferrare), his and Braden’s assistant, who he pays in Karate lessons. It’s pretty overtly sexual on her part… or in the 80s women just wore a lot of revealing robes and no underwear (or just flesh-toned thongs) around their boss’s house. However, while obvious that Cho finds her attractive, he still resists.
At his Oriental Art Gallery, Cho is visited by Braden, who is helping Cho set up a new display of hand-made dolls. Kane breaks one, revealing a white powder within it. Cathy tells him that she’ll cover for him with his father, before talking to Braden and revealing that the dolls are full of heroin. Braden has been smuggling drugs into the country in various art pieces with Cathy’s help. He tries to sell to local stereotypical mobster Caifano (Mario Gallo), but Caifano and Braden can’t work out a deal, resulting in the two of them going to war.
Braden reveals himself to be a ninja, donning a silver mask which he then mostly covers with a ninja mask, which he then covers with a hood. It’s possibly the most overkill disguise in history. He then begins killing Caifanos lieutenants and informants, both using weapons and with his bare hands… on which he wears no gloves. A notably beautiful moment of exploitation is when he kills a couple having sex in a hot tub.
The police begin to investigate the mob hits, but they apparently can’t connect the murders committed with ninja weapons to the murderer being a ninja, but they do seek out a consultant, Martial Artist Dave Hatcher (Keith Vitali). Dave ends up suspecting ninja involvement, so he goes to Cho for advice… in the form of a random sparring session. Cho comes in to talk to the police and states that only a ninja could have committed the murders, but declines to help, saying he’s too busy.
Braden and Cathy’s relationship is going South, as she resists his advances. Caifano calls to work out a deal with Braden, but then tells his men to rob Cho’s gallery for the dolls. Braden has his Sumo Servant (Professor Toru Tanaka) watch Cathy while he goes to meet with Caifano. Cho finds the men robbing the gallery and beats most of them, but a Native-American henchman gets the literal drop on him with a crate, injuring him. They drive off, but Cho pursues them on foot. He gets into the car and beats most of them mercilessly but takes a lot of damage in the process.
Back at the gallery, Braden arrives in ninja garb to find it empty except for Cho’s mother and Kane. Cho’s mother ambushes him with a whipchain and an impressive variety of ninja techniques but ends up being killed. Kane sees Braden without his overkill masks and is attacked, managing to escape. Cho returns to find his mother dead and son gone. Braden returns to his home to find his Sumo attempting to rape Cathy, so Braden kills him and hypnotizes an unwilling Cathy to bring Kane to him.
Dave takes Cho on a trip to question some ex-cons he knows about where the dolls, and therefore Kane, might be. These ex-cons are revealed to be a knock-off Village People because this is the 80s and things can just be awesome for no reason. They resist, but Cho kicks their ass with a paper fan and a ninja belt-buckle. Kane returns to his dad’s karate dojo, finding a hypnotized Cathy who attacks him. Kane proceeds to fight her off impressively, however, when he refuses to kill her, she wins the fight. When she brings Kane to Braden and asks him not to hurt the boy, he slaps her, apparently un-hypnotizing her.
Cho and Dave return to find evidence of Kane and Cathy’s fight. Cathy calls Cho and informs him of Braden’s plans. Dave weirdly thinks that it’s impossible for an American to be a ninja, despite Chris Farley already being born at this point. He then says he’ll have to practice ninjutsu again, because, and I’m going to put this in quote font:
ONLY A NINJA CAN STOP A NINJA
Dave asks to help, but Cho says no. Back at Braden’s place, he’s put Cathy in a see-through shirt, sticks her in a semi-drained hot-tub and turns up the pressure on the jets in order to try and burn her to death or drown her slowly. Either way, this might be the single most ridiculous deathtrap in history that didn’t have Batman in it and I love it.
Cho gears up for battle, managing to conceal an amount of weaponry on his person that would seem to make his gi the TARDIS. He goes to meet Braden at Caifano’s place. Braden is already at the compound and proceeds to murder-death-kill everyone in the place in ways that would boggle the mind. Perhaps my favorite is that he nonchalantly throws a handful of caltrops on the ground, then a handful of marbles, causing a guy to slip on the marbles and impale his face on caltrops. Cho, meanwhile, just sneaks in by climbing a skyscraper. No big.
Dave follows, despite Cho’s warning, by beating up the exterior guards while wearing a police jacket. Back at the hot-tub, Kane frees himself by BURNING THE ROPES OFF OF HIS HANDS and knocks out the goon guarding Cathy, rescuing her. See, this is how you raise children, people. Hell, I’m pretty sure this kid murdered the original cast of 3 Ninjas before they did the movie with Hulk Hogan… or because of it.
Braden continues to kill everyone in the building, including Caifano, with Cho occasionally doing likewise, before Braden meets up with Dave. Unfortunately, it turns out that ONLY A NINJA CAN STOP A NINJA, and Dave comes down with a bad case of “stabbed in the organs.” This leads to the final confrontation of the film. Ninja vs. Ninja, on the greatest of all stages: A rooftop tennis court.
What follows is one of the most over-the-top and epic fights in any movie. Ninja stars, swords, smoke bombs, wall climbing, grappling hooks, ninja vanishes, sickles, body doubles made of paper mache (not for production, but actually in-story), a concealed flamethrower, and all of the sweet, sweet ninja moves that everyone dreamed about since RealUltimatePower.Com was relevant. It’s like watching a playthrough of Ninja Gaiden by someone who can actually beat the original Ninja Gaiden.
Throughout the fight, Braden manages to injure Cho through his trickery. However, ultimately, Cho manages to turn the fight on Braden by blinding him with his own sword, then stabbing him to death. The blood from this wound is apparently different in each version, but I’m told I have the “good” version because it’s so much that the hose is visible in the shot. Kane and Cathy arrive, and the movie ends with them leaving together.
This movie is what God gave us to apologize for the Black Plague. This was our Karmic balance. This is so much freaking awesome packed into 90 minutes of film that I can scarcely watch it for the tears of joy streaming from my eyes. I know other people may prefer either of the other two movies in the trilogy, but this one is my personal pick.
One of my oft-repeated fundamental theories of film is that a movie can ask the audience to suspend disbelief as far as they want, as long as they keep the suspension consistent. This movie starts off with random ninja overkill and asks you to accept that this is a universe filled with random ninja overkill. In exchange for that, we get RANDOM NINJA OVERKILL.
Plot? Logical progression? Characterizations? Non-Exploitative Female Characters? Avoiding Stereotypes? This is a thing for other films. If you came here looking for Gone with the Wind, you misread your ticket. This movie is just to show us all the ninja awesomeness that we didn’t know we needed.
The key to this film is Sho Kosugi. In addition to being the person who did most of his own stunts and almost all of the choreography in the film, he has the small advantage of being an actual ninja. No, really, he practices the art of Ninpo, which is why most of the stuff he does in the movie looks less surreal than his counterpart. He feels like he’s taking everything seriously because he is actually taking everything seriously. Additionally, his scenes with his son Kane feel much more genuine because they share the real father-son bond. It’s more than enough to overcome the fact that he can’t exactly deliver his lines in a natural manner.
The biggest thing in the movie really is the final fight scene. It took two weeks to film because it has so much in it, including hanging Sho Kosugi off of a 20-story building, something that IMDB claims was real. I choose not to investigate, because the reality could only disappoint me.
In the history of Exploitation films, this is the best Ninjexploitation. It’s super violent, super gory, super ridiculous, and enjoyable beyond measure. If you like exploitation films of any kind, you should see this.