Revenge of the Ninja is one of those films that you either understand or you hate. If you can grasp the decade in which it was made and understand what martial arts had become, you will actually enjoy the campy nature, funny one-liners, and bad post-production dialogue editing. The fact MGM rolled the dice and funded such a film was a surprise, but made sense giving that no major production houses were getting involved in what are essentially exploitation films. They just wanted a fair grab at some money in a niche market, and who can blame them for that? The other companies were staying out of it for the most part, perhaps even for good reason.
After the seventies, people wanted more and more, and these kind of kung-fu, bloody, rated-R films were going to small theaters, matinees in the cities, and drive-ins. These were never critically acclaimed films, but were tons of fun. You go to see films like these to enjoy insanity, and basically say “No way!” or “What was that?” to your friends every five minutes. This is one of those films that is so bad, it’s good. It’s also truly violent and gritty in a way we don’t really get anymore in modern action films.
First of all, you need to have a certain kind of humor when watching this film. Made in 1983, Revenge of the Ninja stars Sho Kosugi who was in over 15 martial arts films, hilariously, most of them have “death”, “ninja”, or “kill” in the title. Go figure. Are you surprised? This film was shot on the West Coast, under Philippine influence, about the way of the Chinese. Besides this film, which he is known best for, he also starred in 1985’s Pray for Death and more recently, 2009’s Ninja Assassin.
If you enjoy ridiculous murders and fights which are actually very well choreographed, these films are must sees if you’re looking for a 90-minute romp of entertainment. These movies are not total crap. All these movies are meant to be exactly what they are: envelope-pushing entertainment. Rarely will you get creative camera angles, original stories, or good special effects. That’s not what these kinds of films are about. They are about shock, awe, fighting, and over-the-top deaths.
Produced by Canon Films in 1983, Revenge of the Ninja ran 90 minutes in length and made a pathetic $509,000 on just 93 screens in its opening weekend. It’s scattered run that year — jumping from venue to venue — collected just over $13,100,000. It’s available in DVD and as of this writing (August 2011) is available on Netflix’s instant view and streaming service.
I’m going to know run through a list of what is featured in this movie and I will leave it up to you whether or not you see it. But you have to admit, no other movie on the planet has all of these things. Trust me:
- Stereotypes Italians, gays, blacks, Chinese.
- Breasts. Through wet t-shirts and just completely out. All fake, btw.
- Random rip-off of first-person slasher scene from Halloween for no reason.
- Old, balding men with mustaches in very short gym shorts wrestling in a hall where there is definitely not enough room by a brick wall.
- Forced, out-of-place conversations after a sparring match to keep the plot moving with exposition.
- A Native American hired thug dressed in Indian attire with braided hair. He wields axes and tries to scalp our protagonist.
- Huge 9-foot jumps over walls – clearly off of trampolines.
- Rich, white guy is the antagonist, trained as super ninja.
- Grandmother who can kick some serious ass. Impossible considering her age. But funny to watch.
- A fight scene that immediately has you laughing as Sho Kosugi approaches a make-shift, rip-off of the Village People for information. Stereotypes include a gay cowboy with a mustache and cowboy hat. A Spanish biker with a jean jacket, a black dude with short shorts wearing a headphone radio with antennae and mustache wearing roller skates, yes, roller skates, and a Japanese, fat skinhead wearing a leather jacket with a huge red and white rising star on his t-shirt, just in case you didn’t understand his stereotype. This group of four men are met for the first time by the protagonist and the audience at a children’s playground where they are all sitting on a picnic table laughing and drinking beer. Real hardcore.
- Characters, many of them, having no common sense or lapses in judgment due to a poorly written script.
- A pint-sized child fighting a full-grown woman and winning.
- People’s hands getting cut off. Great effects.
- Ninja’s spitting out spikes and blades into baddie’s faces. Actually kind of sick thanks to the gratuitous zoom ins.
- The bad ninja apparently carries around two, yes, two mannequins of himself in case he needs a diversion on a roof. Where he keeps these is anyone’s guess. Maybe his ass.
- Kid distracting a bad guy by pointing up and saying “Hey! Look! Superman!” and that shit actually works.
- Holding breath in hot tub for two minutes in full ninja hear and knowing exactly when to pop out.
- Joe Pesci wannabe.
- Actually good stunt work, especially when Sho is chasing down the van!
- Streams of blood spraying 15-feet in final kill scene.
So there you have it. Without a doubt, boys may enjoy this more than girls and you really gotta watch it in groups. DVD is here.