Thursday, February 9, 2017

#2,305. Enter the Ninja (1981)

Directed By: Menahem Golan

Starring: Franco Nero, Susan George, Shô Kosugi

Tag line: "Ninjitsu, the darkest and deadliest of all the Martial Arts"

Trivia: There is no spoken dialog in the first ten minutes of the film

Franco Nero, star of Django and other great Italian westerns, playing a Ninja?!? Sounds like a strange bit of casting, doesn’t it?

Well… it is strange, but aside from this (and a handful of other glitches), Enter the Ninja is a fairly effective ‘80s action film.

After completing his ninjutsu training in Japan, Cole (Nero) heads to the Philippines to visit to his old war buddy Frank Landers (Alex Courtney). As it turns out, Cole arrived just in the nick of time; Frank and his pretty wife Mary-Ann (Susan George) are being harassed by wealthy American businessman Charles Venarius (Christopher George), who, for months now, has been trying to buy the couple’s farm. Time and again, Frank and Mary Ann have refused to sell, causing Venarius to resort to extreme methods (including hired goons) to “persuade” them to change their minds.

As Frank and Mary-Ann soon discover, having a trained Ninja around has its benefits, and before long Cole has Venarius’s thugs running for cover. So, the tycoon decides to fight fire with fire, and, with the help of his assistant Mr. Parker (Constantine Gregory), hires his own Ninja, a man named Hasagawa (Sho Kosugi), who was Cole’s main adversary in Japan. 

Venarius's orders to Hasagawa are simple: kill Cole using any means necessary, and as the experienced ninja already knows, the best way to get the upper hand on a guy like Cole is to threaten those closest to him.

The first 10 minutes or so of Enter the Ninja, where Cole undergoes his final Ninjutsu test, feature a few exciting moments, but are far from the film’s strongest; along with the odd continuity issue (at one point, Cole fires a white arrow at an opponent, only to have it miraculously turn into a brown arrow in mid-flight), Nero looks uncomfortable in his ninja get-up (he certainly doesn’t move like a ninja). Then, as if to add insult to injury, we never even get to hear Nero’s real voice (his entire performance was dubbed by the very American-sounding Marc Smith)!

Fortunately, aside from the opening and climactic sequences (when Cole battles Hasagawa), Nero doesn’t wear the ninja outfit all that much, and many of the movie’s other action scenes are pretty solid (late in the movie, Cole accompanies Frank to a secluded location to chat with Mr. Parker, who has 20 gunmen backing him up. As Frank and Mr. Parker are discussing Venarius’s latest offer, Cole snakes around and disarms the majority of the gunmen, leaving a perplexed Mr. Parker without the advantage he was hoping for). Yet another plus is the supporting cast, all of whom do a fine job. As Mary-Ann, Susan George is both tough and sexy, while Sho Kosugi (in his admittedly limited role) proves he can kick ass as well as anyone. Standing above them all, though, is Christopher George, whose flamboyant portrayal of the evil Venarius gives the film a villain you absolutely love to hate.

Directed by Menahem Golan (one-half of Golan-Globus, the creative minds behind Cannon Films), Enter the Ninja may not be art, but as mindless fun goes, it just about corners the market.

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