Sam Firstenberg’s second movie after One More Chance, this movie is way better than someone’s sophomore movie should be. In fact, it’s the kind of movie that makes me leap off my couch like some kind of maniac and scream dialogue back at my TV.
After all, “Only a ninja can kill a ninja.”
Made with the assistance of the Utah Film Commission, who promised no permits, location fees or union deals as well as lower salaries for local crews, Revenge of the Ninja starts in Japan, where Cho Osaki (Sho Kosugi) is attacked by ninjas who kill everyone in his family other than his mother and son (Sho’s son Kane while his other son Shane is the child who is killed with a throwing star right to the head). After killing everyone who dared attack his home, Cho moves to America where he starts an Oriental art gallery with his friend Braden (Arthur Roberts) and their assistant Cathy (Ashley Ferrare).
The entire store is a lie, a fact that Cho has no idea about, as the dolls they sell are full of drugs. A mob boss named Caifano (Mario Gallo) is working with Braden, but when their deal doesn’t work out, Braden wears a silver mask and becomes an evil ninja crime boss. Dave Hatcher (Keith Vitali, once listed as the top fighter in the U.S.) is on the case, hoping that Cho can explain ninjas to him, but he’s retired and wants nothing to do with the world of assassination.
Caifano sends his men to attack the store and then Braden attacks the store afterward, which ends up with Cho’s mother dead and son kidnapped. He then hypnotizes Cathy, who breaks free and tells Cho that his best friend is his greatest enemy and a ninja. Cho must get over his vow to never be a ninja again and scale a building to fight ninja against ninja on the rooftop, a scene that took two weeks to film and every single second was worth it. How many movies have ninjas fighting with fire?
Revenge of the Ninja also breaks with reality to give us mob goons that dress like Native Americans (Don Shanks!), stunt coordinator Steve Lambert playing nearly every ninja that’s not Sho Kosugi and a bad guy who can hypnotize people, create duplicates and teleport. There’s also the absolutely berserk ending battle which can only end with blood spraying everywhere.
Let me tell you, as an eleven-year-old when this came out, school children non-stop talked about this movie. I would stare at the box in my mom and pop neighborhood video store and wonder, “Why does a ninja need a flamethrower?” I’d argue that this is the best movie that Cannon would make, a non-stop thrill ride that I’ll never get bored lining up for over and over again.
For more info on all things Cannon, get Austin Trunick’s The Cannon Film Guide Volume 1: 1980-1984.
Check out The Cannon Canon episode about Revenge of the Ninja here.