Blu-ray Review: Revenge of the Ninja (Kino Lorber Studio Classics) | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, October 29th, 2020  

Revenge of the Ninja

Studio: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

May 27, 2015 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Revenge of the Ninja is the second film in The Cannon Group's '80s Ninja Trilogy. While it was the follow-up to 1981's Enter the Ninja—which Kino Lorber has also re-released on Blu-ray this week—it's important to note that the film isn't a direct sequel and shares no plot connections with its predecessor. After playing the first film's villain, martial arts star Sho Kosugi returned to play an all-new hero character in Revenge, which mustered even more senselessly violent ninja action and baffling plot turns than the Franco Nero vehicle it followed.

Kosugi plays Cho, a descendant from a long line of Japanese warriors. In Revenge of the Ninja's absurdly violent prologue, we watch a clan of rival ninjas converge on Cho's village and coldly murder his wife and son—the latter, with a ninja star straight to the forehead. We're never told what these other ninjas had against Cho's family, but it doesn't matter because Cho returns home just in time to ninja-liciously dispatch every last one of them. Cho seems to take the massacre pretty well, because seconds later he's discussing moving his remaining family—his mother and infant son, the attack's lone survivors—to California so he can open a doll gallery with his American pal, Braden, who he happened to be hanging out with while his family was being casually slaughtered that fateful afternoon.

Revenge of the Ninja then cuts to a shot of a proudly-flown American flag. In case the viewer still can't figure out where the action is now taking place, the words "United States" are then superimposed across the image. Six years have passed since the events we saw in the introduction, and Cho and Braden are finally just now opening their expensive doll gallery. It's attached to the dojo where Cho trains with his last living son and Braden's foxy assistant, Cathy. Cho makes it clear that he's sworn off the ways of the ninja, which seems like a sensible thing to do given that ninjas killed almost everybody he knew and loved. He's even tied a little paper ribbon around his katana to symbolize that it's been sealed forever. However, his retirement hasn't stopped him from keeping his ninja skills sharp (conveniently, for the movie's sake) and passing them all on to his young son, who proves to be a just-as-dangerous little shitkicker when he beats the living crapola out of some schoolyard bullies.

From here on out, the plot of Revenge of the Ninja stops making sense; by the midway point, it stops mattering at all. While left totally unsupervised in the gallery, little Kane—played by Kosugi's real-life son, also named Kane—accidentally breaks one of the fancy Japanese dolls, which is revealed to be filled with heroin. It turns out that the doll gallery is just a front for Braden and Cathy's drug importing ring. (I'm not a criminal mastermind or anything, but I imagine there are better drug lord business models than spending six years establishing a gallery just to smuggle narcotics inside expensive porcelain dolls.) When the hilariously over-the-top mafia boss, Chifano, refuses to pay for the drugs, Braden does what any sensible, American drug smuggler would do:

He takes revenge on the mafia by becoming a demon ninja.

Oh, ho, ho - this is where Revenge of the Ninja just throws its remaining sanity out the window. As ridiculous and implausible as Enter the Ninja was, it didn't introduce us to demon ninjas. These evil martial artists have magic powers and wears goofy silver Halloween masks under the traditional black ninja garb. Demon Ninja Braden's powers include, but aren't limited to: hypnosis, short-range teleportation, spontaneously conjuring decoys of himself made from wood and foam rubber, and shooting flames out of his damn hands.

Cho, naturally, becomes entangled in the war between the mafia and the demon ninja. If you know anything about ninjas, it's that the only way to kill a ninja is with another ninja, so it's obvious that Cho will eventually be forced to remove the symbolic paper ribbon from his katana and get back to his ass-kicking roots. But, before you get to the movie's climactic battle between good (ninja) and evil (ninja), you'll witness all of these amazing showdowns:

Good Ninja vs. Speeding Van Full of Bad Guys
Good Ninja vs. Native American Assassin Wielding Tomahawks
Good Ninja vs. Biker Ex-Con
Good Ninja vs. Cowboy Ex-Con

Yes, Revenge of the Ninja's bad guys do seem to have been inspired by the Village People. But wait, there's more!

Demon Ninja vs. Harmless Homeless Man
Demon Ninja vs. His Own Sumo-sized Bodyguard
Demon Ninja vs. Cho's Elderly Mother, Also A Magical Ninja
Demon Ninja vs. Cho's Pre-Pubescent Son
Demon Ninja vs. An Army of Machine-gun-wielding Mobsters

And are you a fan of kids beating up adults? Because Revenge of the Ninja also includes:

Cho's Pre-Pubescent Son vs. Braden's Foxy Fightin' Assistant
Cho's Pre-Pubescent Son vs. Braden's Nunchuk-wielding Crony

That doesn't include Cho's early battle versus a dozen ninja assassins or many of Demon Ninja Braden's random-ass mafia hits. It's all simply a bonus leading into the final, incredible Ninja vs. Demon Ninja showdown, which goes on for the film's last ten minutes. (The movie runs only 91 minutes in total.) There are so many fights squeezed into Revenge of the Ninja that it's a wonder that they bothered with a plot at all.

Did we mention that several of those battles take place in locations as zany as a public playground, in a hotel sauna, and on top of a skyscraper?

Revenge of the Ninja is ridiculously fun, with extra emphasis on "ridiculous." It makes zero sense, but requires zero thought; b-movie action fans will appreciate the absurd plot turns and awful dialogue alongside its genuinely cool stunt work. Like Kino Lorber's release of Enter the Ninja, the movie looks and sounds fantastic. Unlike the first film, this Blu-ray does include several meaty extras, such as a video intro where director Sam Firstenberg admits he'd lied to producers about knowing how to make an action movie so that he'd land this particular gig, and a full audio commentary with the director and the film's stunt coordinator. If forced to choose between one Blu-ray or the other, Revenge of the Ninja is easily the crazier of the two movies and has better action sequences. However, we'd give b-movie fans our ringing endorsement of both releases—there's no chance in either will disappoint in the least. This is essential '80s cheese.

Author rating: 7/10

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