Director: Sam Firstenberg
USA - 1984
You know, its been a
while since Ive seen a good kung-fu movie, and I guess itll be a while still -
this one sucked.
Though video stores, in general, may vary in
terms of selection, there are always a few staples that appear in a vast majority of them.
When browsing the Martial Arts section of your local video retailer, chances are pretty
good that youll run into a couple kung-fu extravaganzas featuring Mr. Sho Kosugi.
Though Im not necessarily proud of the fact, I must admit that my knowledge of Mr.
Kosugis work is somewhat
limited. I think I remember reading somewhere that he was a master swordsman. I assume he
was probably big back East, and it is also probable that Kosugi was never afforded the
opportunity of making a significant mark in mainstream American cinema. That doesnt
mean Sho isnt a skilled martial artist - it just goes to show that Americans, sadly,
prefer the cinematic styling of Cynthia Rothrock, Jeff Speakman and Lorenzo Lamas as
opposed to more talented performers such as Jet Li and Sammo Hung those sad souls
forced to play second-fiddle to the likes of Mel "Bird on a Wire" Gibson
and Arsenio "Chunky A" Hall. Its a damn shame, really. So, bottom line, I
decided to give Mr. Kosugi a try.
The film opens with a car parked on the side of
the road in an undisclosed desert. A man gets out of said car and makes his way up a
mountain into a secret cave. Once in the cave, he opens a stone sarcophagus revealing a
hidden arsenal of Chinese stars, blow-guns, and those small, shiny, pointy projectiles of
which to hurl towards the enemy at great velocity. (I seem to have misplaced my Idiots
Guide to Ninja Weaponry. Sorry). After donning some ninja duds and loading up on
poisoned darts and nipple clamps (ok, maybe not nipple clamps), our mysterious assassin
makes his way back down the mountain to a nearby golf course (?), where he then proceeds
to off a "famous scientist" on the seventh green (or maybe it was the sixth?)
along with several of his requisite henchmen. I dont recall the killers
rationale for this nefarious deed, nor do I remember why the scientist is necessarily
famous, but in my defense, I dont think the movie ever divulges this information -
but really, whos keeping score anyway?
Moving along, approximately forty-five minutes
after the ninja has killed the scientist and his goons, the police finally decide to show
up. Though this should have been ample time for our assassin to make his escape, for some
unexplained reason, the moron is still hanging around the scene of the crime. Perhaps
ninjas are paid by the hour. I really dont know.
Anyway, the police decide to show up
helicopters, SWAT, the whole shebang - and a raging battle ensues. Actually, what really
ensues is a good reason for our ninja to try out every piece of exotic artillery he
happens to have on his person, while at the same time, the cops continuously blast away
with their silly guns (sometimes at point-blank range) and continuously miss.
Hes Chinese-starring em, running
em through with his sword, karate choppin, karate kickin - heck, at one
point, the ninja gets so cocky he throws a Chinese star at one poor slob from between his
toes! Ten minutes and approximately forty-eight dead cops later, the scanty remains of the
police force finally get the ninja surrounded, and proceed to empty several rounds into
the elusive assassin.
After five minutes of dramatic slow-motion as he
is riddled with bullets, the ninja finally falls, leading to one of the inept cops to make
the obligatory "check to make sure hes dead." Naturally, he isnt,
and kills a dozen more of the men in blue before they gun him down once again. Realizing
that hes been bested, the ninja then resorts to his puff of smoke magic and
disappears to the befuddlement of the authority.
Meanwhile, a mile or two away, Christy, our
heroine and friendly Metro Telephone employee, is high atop a telephone pole doing
whatever telephone employees do when theyre high atop a telephone pole. She notices
the ninja, still quite alive after numerous point-blank gun shots, hobbling across the
field. Immediately, Christy scales down the pole and seeks out the fallen martial artist.
Upon finding him, the dying ninja offers her the handle of his sword, and when Christy
touches it she is subjected to a flashback of when the ninja was shot - the faces of his
assailants are then emblazoned in her mind. Come to find out, she has hence forth been
possessed by the spirit of the ninja - Ninja Domination, if you will.
Now, the aforementioned flashback proves to be a
key factor in the story I mean, it must be, for we, the audience, are
subjected to the same flashback repeatedly throughout the course of the film. Every time
Christy runs into one of the cops who offed her ninja buddy, we get graced with the
slow-motion flashback of the ninja falling. This particular flashback constitutes at least
one-half of the film. Upon viewing the picture of the falling ninja I have posted above,
you too have now seen a good majority of Ninja III: Domination. I just saved you
the price of a rental!
So, after the initial possession, and because she
has not yet realized she has been possessed/dominated, Christy goes to the police to
report the body she found. In the police station scene alone, I think we see the
falling-ninja flashback at least four times. Out of the entire frigging precinct, Christy
is prone to only run into the same ninja-killing cops. What a coincidence, huh?
It's also during this sequence where we are
introduced to Officer Billy Secord, who, after several horrible come-ons, becomes
Christys love interest. I mean, who can resist a guy who fakes an arrest only to get
you alone in his car? That Billy Secord is a smooth talker like Betty Crocker! The
highlight of their torrid love affair is the scene where a scantily-clad Christy, while
straddling Billy on the couch, leans her head back and pours V-8 vegetable juice down her
bare chest for him to..uh..clean off. Im sorry, but V-8 has got to be one of the least erotic beverages I can think of. And for the love of
Pete, Secord has more hair on his back than a yeti! Keep a shirt on that rascal!
The movie then revolves around Christy becoming
possessed whenever she coincidentally meets up with any number of ninja-killing cops - and
then she, in turn, kills them. The only remotely interesting aspects of this are the
actual ways Christy becomes possessed. Whenever a glowing sword comes floating out of her
closet by a string - er, I mean by magic - Christy then transforms into the evil ninja.
But the power of the ninja is not limited to a floating sword; oh no, he can come by many
other means as well. He can also channel through Christys video game! Heck, that
wily bastard can even come from under the kitchen sink!
So what does Christy do when she finally realizes
her predicament with ninja domination? Why, she invents the Flashdance Method to Exorcism,
of course! In one priceless moment, the ninja spirit is coming for her from within the
closet, so Christy immediately throws on a compilation of 80s dance favorites and
attempts to funk her way to salvation. Unfortunately, Flashdance just doesnt cut the
mustard. Everybody knows that evil spirits can only be thwarted through the likes of
pain-inducing classics such as Survivors "Separate Ways", and/or The
Proclaimers "I Would Walk Five Hundred Miles." *
Then, to make matters even worse, Christy
discovers that Secord was one of the men responsible for the ninjas death. Man, did that plot twist ever swerve me. But before all hope is
lost, the mysterious Yamada (Sho Kosugi) shows up to help. Come to find out, Yamadas
master/friend/father/whatever was killed by the same evil ninja way back when - and nearly
blinded Yamada in the process. This is explained in a vague flashback of Yamada tied to a
tree, the ninja slitting the unknown old mans throat, and then throwing a Chinese
star into one of Yamadas eyes. Thats all we get. No further exposition. No
details on their relationship. Nothing. I guess it doesnt matter now, because Yamada
seeks revenge. So, through more of that wacky ninja magic, Yamada extracts the evil spirit
from Christy and they do battle - the fate of the planet hanging in the balance. Really!
Though this may be a bad vehicle for me to judge
his talent, I must admit, Mr. Kosugi failed to really blow me away. His action sequences
were mediocre at best, and he truly lacked any substantial screen presence which is
a problem when youre trying to portray a larger-than-life action hero. I wouldn't
avoid a Sho Kosugi film in the future, but I wouldn't go out of my way for one either.
Is the movie entertaining? I guess so.
Is the movie stupid? Most definitely.
Christy: I feel something is
making me do things I don't want to do.
Secord: Oh, you should do
something about that.
Buy it! We love your money!
Copyright © 2000 by J. Bannerman