Judge, Jury and Executioner!
Quick Blast Review:
Sho Kosugi is Akira, a family man and ex-ninja with a shady past he wants to forget. At his wife's request, he and his family of two sons - fantastically played by Sho's real life boys Shane and Kane - move to the USA to start a new life running their own business. The shop they buy from a retiring old man seems to have also been used as a storage place for gangs hiding stolen goods. When a priceless neckless goes missing, the top thug of the crime gang, Limehouse (James Booth) kidnaps Akira and one of his boys. Sho breaks free but Limehouse still believes he has the jewels. His wife and other son are near-fatally hit by a car. In hospital, Limehouse posing as a Doctor murders Akira's wife. With vengeance in his heart, Akira becomes a Ninja again!
This is a quality 80's Ninja film, complete with the token 80's synth-pop soundtrack. I think I enjoyed this even more than Revenge of the Ninja and Ninja III: Domination. This is definitely the most I've seen so far of Sho doing dialogue scenes, and although his accent is quite heavy, he is easy to understand and it adds to the realism anyway. Sho is on top form in the first two-thirds of the film demonstrating mainly defensive skills in hand-to-hand combat and utilising objects around him to his advantage. I was really impressed with Sho's offspring Shane and Kane! Both got in the thick of it and kicked bad guys in the groin or hit them with nunchucks, or simply use Ninja tricks to escape them - skills they learned from dojo training and watching The Black Ninja, their favourite TV show.
The film gets progressively darker as it goes on which I thought was done well. The kids fight against local bullies is light hearted, almost to the point of adding comical sound effects to it, and much of the early action is frenetic and artistic. However once his wife is murdered, the tone of the film becomes quite ugly, matching the mood that I can imagine Akira must have been in. Sho's acting ability is actually half-way decent, and he has the "I'm going to kill you" look that many try to emulate, and fail.
The Final Fifteen:
We get a glorious montage of Akira creating his new sword and performing a rite. Once he's in his Ninja costume, complete with the helmet and steel mask, Akira fights his way into the syndicate's mansion, dispatching guards holding uzis with shurikens to the hands and skull. It's actually pretty bloody stuff; lot's of close ups of wounds and sharp objects making those wounds wider. There is even the threat of a circular saw death! Glorious.
Australian PAL VHS on the Palace label. From what I can ascertain, this edition is uncut. The US print misses some of the blood and gore; about 4 minutes worth. There is no official DVD yet, although MGM did show the cut edition in widescreen on American television. Seek out an uncut edition.
Want to see what Sho has been up to since leaving the cinema? Why, selling home exercise videos demonstrating stretch techniques using a towel. Towelcise!