Revenge of the Ninja (1983)

A former ninja master escapes from Japan with his son after a rival clan destroys his family. Cho starts a new life in America where he begins training his young son in the ways of the ninja, but when his business partner gets wrapped up in a botched drug trade, Cho is forced to suit up and launch an all-out assault against the mafia crime bosses and a mysterious masked warrior. Martial artist Sho Kosugi stars in this off-the-wall action flick that is jam-packed with kicks, flips, and tons of clanging katanas! REVENGE OF THE NINJA speeds forward with non-stop violence and gore as the not-so-mysterious villain eliminates his enemies using a variety of deadly weapons. The final rooftop battle between the two disciplined warriors best demonstrates Kosugi's immense fighting skills.

While it is highly regarded as one of the best ninja films from the 80's, it is also hard to overlook many of the sillier aspects that the film represents. NINJA opens with some of the clumsiest and most overweight ninjas the world has ever known as they fail miserably in their attempts to kill Cho. Later, a conspicuously dressed mob informant with an eye patch is killed in broad daylight after a secret meeting in the middle of a public square. The informant isn't the only person that seems out-of-place, considering director Sam Firstenberg throws in every single action movie cliche that he can think of into an hour and a half. From the greasy Italian mobsters and an Indian scalper to the hilarious assortment of street punks in the park, NINJA shamelessly exploits every racial stereotype possible. Much of the choreography is expertly achieved, but there are still many stunts, edits, and fight sequences that are laughably bad. Some scenes are so absurd to the uninitiated action fan that is almost seems like a bad joke. Firstenberg films the entire thing without a shred of indignity, however, which makes the unintentional humor that much more enjoyable.

Whether it is watched for the onslaught of violence or the goofy humor, REVENGE OF THE NINJA is a fast-paced and immensely entertaining action flick that is a must-see for fans of the martial arts!

Rating: 6/10.
Entertainment: 8/10.
Gore: 5/10.

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  1. this film was great, the beginning of the crossover films to be american-ized... and we need to thank chuck norris! thank you chuck norris!

  2. As I told Carl, my favorite bit is when Sho kills the guy in the stairwell. The guy grabs him and pulls down his mask, only for Sho to spit a bunch of tacks into the guy's face!

    You had those in there the whole time?!? Ow!!!

    I especially love the myriad of face-offs, including Old Lady Ninja vs. Ninja, Little Kid Ninja vs. Blond Bimbo and Sho Kosugi vs. The Village People!

  3. So many great moments, I had to e-mail Venoms while watching it because I expected it to be deathly serious and I felt bad even questioning it. Must be the timing in which I watched it. I remember watching BLOODSPORT as a kid and thinking it was the most amazing thing ever, but then reproaching it in college to see how cheesy some of the scenes were. Still, so much awesome in this film it can hardly be contained! And so many bad stunt double wigs!

  4. Well I'm glad you "liked" it, Carl, lol! There's no overweight ninjas at the beginning, though. I think they were all suspiciously American, too. The later two guys (including former pro wrestler GOLDFINGER villain, Professor Toru Tanaka) were just henchmen and not ninjas. If you want to get technical, samurai and ninja are the same thing. One does his work honorably, the other does not. A person's weight doesn't denote their skill, or lack thereof. Tomisaburo Wakayama, LONE WOLF himself, was big, but there was no denying his skill level. Sammo Hung is another. He's a big round mound, but gets around like a cat.

    I still say the movie is incredibly violent. Any movie where you kill children on screen is pretty brutal and the little boy that takes a shuriken in the skull was pretty shocking then and now as well as all the old folks getting their throats slashed and whatnot. The MGM DVD has more gore than the previous theatrical and VHS releases, too. The shot with the little boy for instance is longer. Before, you see him hit the floor and it cuts away. The DVD lingers for a few seconds as he dies.

    Of course the ninjas at the beginning are not going to be a match for Cho...he's the hero of the movie. He's just returned home to find his entire family annihilated. Save for the last ninja of the attacking group at the beginning, the ease with which he dispatches them showcases both Cho's rage and his skill level. There's no reason for them to be problematic for him. If they were, the movie would have failed pretty early on in showcasing a strong protagonist.

    I see this movie as a live action video game--every bad guy persona is here and that car/foot chase is still one of the best ever put on screen. Cho chases on foot, fights on top of the van, inside the van, hanging on the van being dragged along the highway.... That scene kicked ass on so many levels. Easily Sam Firstenberg's best movie and he did a lot of similar stuff to this. The gore drenched AMERICAN SAMURAI came close to this, but the DVD is seriously gutted of nearly all the gore.

    ENTER THE NINJA (1981) started the interest in this sub-genre over here. In that film, Sho Kosugi is one of the main villains. NOW THAT MOVIE is a total joke. It's easily one of the funniest non comedies ever made and it's a Cannon film. It's obvious Franco Nero has no skill whatsoever and his scenes attempting to use practice with nunchucks is hilarious.

    NINJA 3 THE DOMINATION was the third in this series and mixed horror with the formula ie THE EXORCIST. A ninja wipes out a golf course full of people then takes on a hundred or so cops who pump some thousand bullets into him. Managing to escape, he possesses the body of a female electrician (Lucinda Dickey from BREAKIN' 2) and she goes about killing the cops that managed to kill the ninja. An exorcist fails to get rid of the demonic ninja and Sho, who knows the evil ninja from Japan, is brought over to fight for the girls soul. That one isn't on DVD yet, unfortunately. It's silly, but an intriguing idea.

    REVENGE OF THE NINJA is silly in places, yes, but I never found it to be cheesy. ENTER THE NINJA, now that's a different story entirely. It's hard to tell if they intended that to be serious, or a big joke. Hilarious movie, that one and one of the "best" Cannon films.

  5. I think the problem here is the same problem I had initially when reviewing the GODZILLA series starting with GODZILLA VS SPACE GODZILLA. Without any point of reference or context, it is nearly impossible to form an educated review. This is maybe one of two martial arts films I have ever seen, the other being BLOODSPORT, so it is definitely more difficult to rate and review the film based on an undefined set of criteria for what defines a good ninja movie.

    The ninjas in the beginning are pretty uncoordinated, and just happen to look overweight due to the costuming most likely. I definitely enjoyed the film, and with that in mind I had every intention of checking out ENTER THE NINJA lol.. Im sure there is plenty more ninja action where this came from!

  6. Another one to check out, Carl, that's even MORE ridiculous than ENTER THE NINJA is 9 DEATHS OF THE NINJA from 1985 starring Kosugi. He's got all these fancy looking Bond like ninja gadgets and a selection of lollipops strapped to his belt. There's also kung fu midgets in this. Terrible movie and the producer, Ashok Armitraj recently produced MACHETE if that tells you anything. 9 DEATHS was definitely the beginning of Kosugi's downward spiral.

    PRAY FOR DEATH ran into serious MPAA problems and that, along with the underrated and decent, RAGE OF HONOR were Kosugi's last theatrical movies in the US that I am aware of. He did BLACK EAGLE where he fought a villainous Van Damme, but that went straight to video as far as I know.

    He did another movie directed by Gordon Hessler called SHOGUN MAYEDA, but it never got released here in any form, at I've never seen it turn up here. It did get released in the UK if I remember right.