Overview: Sho Kosugi is the good ninja. He has to kill the bad ninja. Everybody has to kill a lot of screen time to stretch this to 90 minutes.

Directed By: Sam Firstenberg

The Case For: Hilarious ninja action

The Case Against: Tedious ninja action


I imagine it was hazy childhood memories of films like Revenge of the Ninja that informed the "Real Ultimate Power" craze, bringing most of the Internet to the consensus that "ninjas are totally awesome." The ninja now exists largely as one of the mystical constructs at the core of message board/webcomic humor. Like pirates and zombies, they are meant to be inherently hilarious in any context. The fatigue of maintaining such a constant, ironic level of enthusiasm for the ninja has taken its toll. Many, tiring of the joke, have discarded ninja-themed humor. Others have mutated, developed a sincere interest in ninja-themed entertainment. This is the danger of traveling too far into the ironic wastes with too little experience. (A similar phenomenon was observed among fans of this year's Snakes on a Plane.) It's important to return to the source of the ninja in our popular culture, horrible American action movies from the 1980s, and see the ninja laid bare by filmmakers working without a hint of humor.

A ninja, as loosely defined in the Cannon movie universe, is a guy, usually dressed in black, armed with an array of deadly bladed weapons which he may or may not know how to use correctly. He probably has magical or psychic powers that allow him to hypnotize, possess, or incinerate his victims. He may be able to teleport. He may be a master of robotics or LASER-based technologies. The ninja's abilities are restricted only by the budget-and since this is Cannon, the ninja's abilities will probably fluctuate wildly over the course of filming as financing comes in to finish more chunks of the movie. The precise details may change from film to film, but the basic MO for these ancient masters of stealth tends to remain constant: they usually attack in broad daylight after running in screaming to announce their presence. Another general rule:

CHO: Only a ninja can stop a ninja.

Pictured above: Sho Kosugi, martial arts expert, transformed into Cho Osaki, martial arts expert, seen here discovering a ninja star lodged in a young boy's head. Revenge of the Ninja begins with tragedy, as nearly all of Cho's family are wiped out in a devastating attack by rival ninjas-ninjas who will not be seen again and will have no bearing on the rest of the plot. Cho's mother, unharmed, urges him to stay and fight for the family's land. Cho's American friend, Braden, urges him to travel to the USA so they can start a new life as business partners. Cho dismisses mom's insistence that Braden can't be trusted. He obviously can't see the extremely ominous zoom that's happening behind his back.

SIX YEARS LATER, Cho's surviving son Kane (played by his actual son, Kane Kosugi) is walking home when confronted by a gang of young Double Dragon villains-in-training. The kid with the bike tries riding his bike towards Kane; Kane counters this by ninja kicking him off the bike. Kane does a lot of fighting in this picture[/url]; most of the time he's on screen he's beating up the bad guys or getting the shit slapped out of him. He thrashes the bullies with ease, much to grandma's delight. Her greatest joy in life is seeing her family members throw themselves into violent situations.

Cho is not so pleased. He's been repressing his true ninja nature ever since his wife was killed in the first scene of the movie. He scolds Kane for fighting but, for tradition's sake, continues training him to be an unstoppable murder machine.

CHO: Cathy, you help me so much. I really think I should pay you.
CATHY: Really, I love doing things for you, Cho. Besides, my karate training is more than enough. I just want you to teach me the Way.
CHO: Well, if you want to work out, you forgot your pants.

Cho receives a visit from Cathy, the pantsless red karate girl. Not pictured: Cathy's ass covered only by a thin layer of hose. Cathy functions as the "eye candy" in the picture, when she's not triggering plot events. She tries to seduce Cho with karate-themed foreplay, but he's apparently sworn off both fighting and girls.

After six years, Braden and Cho are finally ready to open their gallery-a garish neon Hell against a brick backdrop where elegant Japanese geisha and ninja dolls are displayed. The design was Cho's idea. He probably also designed the gallery logo, which looks like a big yellow ass. It's on the side of the building and on the side of his car. Big yellow ass all over town.

Kane breaks one of the dolls, spilling the heroin hidden inside. Cathy shoos him away and warns Braden that their secret operation may be in jeopardy.

BRADEN: This gallery setup is becoming too risky.

He worked for six long years towards opening this doll gallery with his ninja friend from Japan, with the intent to use it for heroin smuggling. It would have been a good idea to evaluate the risks involved some time before the dolls came in.

Braden has a tense meeting with his buyer, mafia boss Chifano, who's receiving a massage from his brother Joe. Chifano tries to screw him on the deal, so Braden threatens retaliation from his "Japanese connection." Since there is no Japanese connection, he really means that he's going to get his own ninja suit out and start killing people. We later learn that Braden lived for 20 years in Japan-long enough to make a ninja out of anyone.

Joe is having a picnic in the park. Braden, carrying his case full of ninja gear, sneaks into the bathroom. When his quarry enters, he sneaks around the corner in his ninja costume, startling and killing him. Braden changes back into his suit and leaves while glancing around suspiciously to make sure nobody sees him leaving the room where he just put on a disguise for the sole purpose of hiding his identity from a guy he killed in about three seconds with no witnesses.

Chifano's nephew is killed in a tub and Chifano's eyepatched sea dog informant gets a throwing star in his good eye. Chifano decides he's had enough and sends a team of goons to clean out Cho's gallery. Leading the pack is perhaps the only mystical force powerful enough to counter a ninja assault: an American Indian.

CHIFANO: If anybody gets in your way, scalp 'em.

"Chief" can't summon hawks or wolves to fight alongside him, but he manages to hit Cho with a crate before getting killed. Chifano still has a backup force of Italian mobsters, but no ethnic stereotypes exotic enough to counter black magics from the Far East. He should have realized:

CHO: Only a ninja can stop a ninja.

Braden, in ninja mode, arrives too late to stop the gallery heist. He doesn't find his heroin, but he does find [url=http://i.somethingawful.com//sasbi/2006/11/jcdracula/Ninja18b.jpg]Grandma Osaki ready and waiting for a fight[/url]. Like basically every other minor character in the film, [url=http://i.somethingawful.com//sasbi/2006/11/jcdracula/Ninja19.jpg]she doesn't last long[/url]. Kane, [url=http://i.somethingawful.com//sasbi/2006/11/jcdracula/Ninja20.jpg]perched on the roof[/url], witnesses the whole thing, leading Braden to wonder [url=http://i.somethingawful.com//sasbi/2006/11/jcdracula/Ninja21.jpg]why he took his mask off[/url].

Braden reinforces his control over Cathy with [url=http://i.somethingawful.com//sasbi/2006/11/jcdracula/Ninja22.jpg]ninja hypnotism[/url]. It's one of an undefined number of [url=http://i.somethingawful.com//sasbi/2006/11/jcdracula/Ninja23.jpg]magical abilities[/url] at his command, which must not be extremely reliable because he ultimately decides to stick her in a super-powered hot tub designed to annoy her to death.

CHO: Cathy, where is Kane?
CATHY: Cho, it's all my fault. I brought him to Braden's. He hypnotized me. He's a ninja, Cho, do you understand?
CHO: Yes, I'm afraid I do.

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